Weight loss as the desire to reinhabit a past self.

I wrote this over a year ago, but didn’t publish it. Today I figured, why not?

Hi, I haven’t written. Everything sucks and I’m constantly angry. Not only do I (we) live in a never-ending pandemic and attendant state of chronic incompetence, but at the beginning of all this, one of my cats died, and my other cat has required daily medical care to survive. So far, she has. [Update, 2022: she hasn’t.]

Everything is on fire, everything is terrible, my work schedule has exploded (if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, this is why and I’m sorry), yet there is a deep sense of boredom and monotony, occasionally interrupted by spluttering rage or outright terror at world events.

I’m not writing about all of that. I’m writing about this: I’m in my 40s and having some kind of midlife…thing. Two years ago, I started ice skating (proto-figure skating?), and I wrote about that here. [Update, 2022: I’ve now also taken up kick scootering and cycling because I’m a small-time adrenaline junkie.]

And, 25 years ago, I weighed exactly 100 lbs. less than I do now. Here’s a photo someone sent me that I hadn’t seen before:

My handsome boyfriend repping the early Raptors in rural Ontario, and Jane Russell except it’s the 90s and she hates herself.

People have a lot of feelings about old photos, and I’m no different. My first impression was of how intensely young we look, and of my then-boyfriend/now-husband’s adorable Luke Perry-esque sideburns. My second impression was: who’s that girl/oh shit, it’s me.

My third impression, which took a few days to identify: unutterable sadness. People had been so desperately cruel to me by this point in my life, specifically about my appearance. As a result, I was completely alienated from my (apparently dangerous/disgusting) body and attempting to live solely in the jar of my brain.

At the time this photo was taken, I was just barely starting to find my way out of constant despair, because one person in the world (pictured left) had chosen to be kind to me.

It should not have required that. I should’ve been allowed to feel human without the redemption of my boyfriend’s gaze reassuring me that I was okay, that I was pretty and smart and funny and angry and ridiculous and lovable all at once. In a just world, it would not take a boy loving me and treating me like a human to make me real, like a velveteen rabbit.

I was human the whole time: when boys groped me at school, when I was excluded by my peers for an undefined yet unforgivable weirdness, when grown men stalked and threatened me on the street, when I was told how ugly and stupid, ugly and stupid, ugly and stupid, ugly and stupid and fat and stupid and ugly and fat and stupid I was over and over and over again, for a decade (plus occasional surprise encores in adulthood, bravo!)

My fourth and final impression: a strong and completely irrational wish to go back. This is not unusual for people seeing themselves in old photos. The desire to lose weight and re-inhabit a former body is, I suspect, the desire to use a scale to travel back in time. But time is not a place; it is a process of annihilation.

I live in an older, larger body now. Even if I weighed what I weighed back then, I would not have that body back; I would have the body I do now, just smaller, with more skin and more wrinkles.

Maybe the desire to go back, itself, is not even really a wish to be who I was (because I was miserable), but a wish to tell my former self the truth: The people around you are messed up. Your body is not a punching bag. You deserve to live.

Since that former self no longer exists, I can only tell it to myself, and you, now.

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