My mom is constantly convinced that I’m going to become fat. Not a little chubby, but wheelchair-bound morbidly obese. When I was 13 and really was fat, she would tell me that I was beautiful and she didn’t know why the other kids teased me all of the time, but as soon as I was no longer wearing plus sizes she became convinced that I was overweight.
She used to offer me constructive criticism such as “You have such a nice figure underneath the fat,” and “You have such a pretty face, if you could just lose a few pounds you’d be a knockout!”
It’s not that my mom is even skinny. She’s always had a problem with her weight, and for as long as I can remember she’s talked about how she was bulimic for years. Saying “I may be fat now, but when I was bulimic I was so thin that I always had some man after me,” probably wasn’t the best way to present it to an impressionable eight-year-old, but fortunately it never appealed to me. Maybe I just lacked commitment.
She doesn’t mean any harm, she just doesn’t want me to suffer the fate that has plagued so many of our immediate family members who are overweight, which according to her includes being unhealthy, poor, unloved and miserable for the rest of your life.
During college, I lost 10 pounds between family visits and the next time I went home to see her, I proudly wore a snug sweater and tight jeans to show off how much better I looked. When I walked through the door, before hugging or greeting me, she looked me up and down and said “Looks like you’ve gained some weight, what have you been eating?” I was absolutely crushed and accepted every scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and piece of blackberry cobbler she proceeded to offer me.
Things continued this way throughout the next 10 years with her accusing me of gaining weight every time she saw me and then asking why I didn’t want her to buy me a milkshake with my McDonalds combo. But since she refuses to visit Los Angeles, and I revel in disregarding my vacation time, I haven’t seen her in a year. I talk to her weekly, but I haven’t sent her any pictures for 12 months. This drives her crazy, which in turn delights me. She constantly asks for updates on my weight and every time something goes wrong in my life she asks me if I’ve gained weight. Whether I’ve lost a job or broken up with a boyfriend, she’s convinced that anything negative in my life must stem from my weight.
Much to her horror, I am newly single from someone she adored, and once again her first question was “How much weight did you gain to make him lose interest?” I tried to explain that it wasn’t the case, but she was insistent until I hung up the phone in tears. I immediately called the only other person who I knew would understand. My brother. After several minutes of understanding joint frustration we came up with an official statement to tell my mom. I mean, sometimes you just have to give people what they want.
“Look, Mom, I didn’t want you to have to find out this way, but yes, I’ve gained some weight. And yes, he broke up with me because of it. I also didn’t want you to know, but I was fired from my job because I missed two weeks straight of work. It’s not because I was sick. I’d just gotten so big that I couldn’t even fit out my door to get to work. When I finally ran out of food I lost enough weight from not eating to be able to fit through the doorway again and was able to go to the store for some more mini pizzas. Last week I finally got a job at WalMart testing out their disabled scooters but they fired me for running down small children with them. Do you think you could spot me some money for food?”