Survival Takes a Back Seat pt. 1
In October of 2007, I became one of the thousands of morbidly obese people who has Gastric Bypass surgery. At my highest weight, I tipped the scales at an astonishing 284 pounds. At the rate I was going, I’d have been over 300 within the next 3 months. I’d undergone what might have been the riskiest thing I’d ever done… I’d decided to take the bull by the horns and FORCE myself back to health. The wall I’d built had become so effective at it’s assigned task simply because I made sure it was physical as well as emotional. I’d managed to put on nearly 140 of excess weight, effectively doubling my body size from it’s natural, normal state.
When I discovered that my body had started rebelling against my fortress: my blood pressure was now well elevated, my feet wouldn’t carry me anymore, my knees wouldn’t support any contemplation of walking more than a few feet at a time… I knew I’d made a mistake. I had no desire to leave my child an orphan, and a very STRONG desire to see my grandchildren… so…!
I consulted a surgeon, booked a date, made sure the insurance would pay for it, and Viola!
I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror anymore, because the woman I saw there was unrecognizable to me. I was ugly, and I knew it. I’d planned it this way, hadn’t I? Finally achieved the goal. I was disgusting. And disgusted with myself for having done it. I think the worst part was that I’d finally gotten over the eating for comfort, the eating for boredom, the eating in anger… all that crap was done. I’d finally achieved eating for fuel, but, it was too late..! My metabolism was so slow, and my body hurt so much to move, that exercise was impossible, and it was equally impossible to eat a small enough portion to allow for any weight loss. I had to force the issue. So. Surgery. Done.
It took six months to lose the first 75 pounds. I couldn’t believe the rapid change in how I felt once that weight came off…! I felt like I’d lost the last 15 years of age too… Suddenly, I had energy, and confidence… And people had started to notice.
When the weather turned nice in the spring I’d decided that I needed to add some exercise to my daily life, and thought the mile or so walk from the bus terminal to work would be perfect as a starter plan, and I could always “upgrade” as I got better at this whole exercise thing…!
Now, when I first started walking, I remained invisible to any and all who looked my way.
This was something I’d been used to as a nearly 300 lb. female, so it was no surprise that it continued. I decided to challenge myself to more difficult terrain, although I had some limitations on which directions I could travel in… Work is in a rather deserted part of the city — yes, there are such places, even in NYC — and because of this, I determined that walking past construction sites was probably the best option for a safe, a.k.a. don’t-get-mugged-on-your-way-to-work, journey… As it happened, the route I chose took me past two consecutive construction sites, sitting catty-cornered to each other, and then a third just down the block. I came to call it the gauntlet because of the constant cat calls, whistles and comments that every woman walking past would be subjected to as she made her way down the street. Every woman, that is… except me. I never heard a thing, and no one looked my way for more than a second or two.
It was a beautiful May morning in NYC, and I was walking my usual route. I was wearing all new clothes… clothes that actually fit for a change. I’d gone from a size 22/24 pants to a size 14 and finally gone out and purchased a pair. The tops went from 28/30 to 16/18, and since it was a warm day, I had opted for a camisole top to go with my new jeans. Sneaker-sandals completed the outfit, and I’d not yet put my hair up in it’s usual bun. It just felt too good to let it float in the breeze…
As I walked past the first leg of the gauntlet my eye caught some movement… A pair of hands, fingers interlocked came to rest on the ledge of the work site’s little shed… Then another pair. And another. Soon enough there were no less than 6 pairs of men’s hands leaning on this ledge. And I knew there were a matching six pairs of eyes watching me walk past.
Shit. I forgot to put on my earphones. I know they’re gonna say something stupid… DAMMIT! Should have brought a sweater to cover up here… they’re gonna make fun of me or something equally demoralizing.
Nothing. Not a sound came from them. Hmmm.
What that’s about? Oh, maybe there was a woman walking across the street and I didn’t see her…?! That MUST be it! Ok… keep goin’… Damn… it’s getting hot…!
I reached for my hair on my neck and started to pull it up and off my skin just as I reached the second construction site, where the men were all standing outside waiting for the breakfast wagon to serve them their coffee…
There must have been twenty men standing there, and suddenly they were blocking my path. One of them, a very large, rather obese fellow standing over 6 feet stood directly in my way and uttered one word:
He looked me down and up and down again. And again, he said just that one word.
Having never been known for my timidity, I let go of my hair, pulled my sunglasses to the top of my head, tilted my head to one side and, much to the delight of his co-workers, gave him the same once-over he’d just given me. When I finished, I smiled at him and shook my head.
He didn’t move. He just started to grin, and then made a motion toward me.
I stepped back, took the smile off my face and, looking him directly in the eyes said:
“Not in your lifetime.”
His buddies laughed louder. His face started turning red. I took another step, toward him this time.
“Do I need to be afraid of you? or can I go to work now?”
His face cleared, he stepped aside, and amid a chorus of cheers, whistles and applause, I walked on…
Walking to work has never been the same…