Have you ever had people look at you but not "see" you? Have you ever had people talk around you or about you, but not "to" you?
Holly at 300 Pounds Down reminded me in her writing about those feelings of having to be happy for others to like me, or having people completely ignore you despite you standing right there.
I've been heavy most of my life. Not just a little overweight, but morbidly obese. There was the short while when I worked as a correctional officer when I got in shape and worked hard at it, but that was short lived, and it all came back and then some. During most of my life, I'd gotten used to being treated a certain way. Holly reminded me of this, that it is more common than most think.
As early as school years, people overlooked me, looked past me, or simply ignored my presence. The group I kinda hung on the outter fringes of at school was kind of like that too--most of the time it was if I wasn't there, despite being right there. Never never never was I actually a part of anything, I wasn't an acceptable size, so it was ok to forget I existed when it came to activities, conversations, and so on. In a class of 18 people I somehow became invisible.
Only in the past few months have I started noticing a difference in how people treat me. My body size has nearly gotten totally into the "normal" range for clothing, and it seems to have made a huge difference in social settings. For what it's worth, I do not go out seeking attention. Quite the opposite--I am a wall flower, and I tend to stay to myself in public, even in church where I know everyone and am comfortable. Social situations are not easy to me, and never have been. In the past couple of months, I've found that people speak to me in public, striking up conversations and rather surprising me. Rather than ignoring my presence or diverting eyes, I've had total strangers talk and talk and talk, where this very seldom happened before. Old men talk to me about the weather, whatever it is outside at the time. When did I become approachable? Was there a sign that popped up saying "safe to talk to"?
It can't be the clothes. I wear mostly dresses, skirts and tops, but in the winter it has been sweats and yoga pants and layer--lots of layers. I don't dress to impress. Comfort is my number one goal in choosing clothes, if it shows too much or feels funny it doesn't come home let alone go out in public. I don't try to stand out or call attention to myself, more the opposite.
Eye contact has greatly increased as well. Instead of shying away, I look people in the eye. I also notice a lot more eye contact and people not looking away. I'd grown so used to having this happen, people shying away from looking at me, that it to me seems odd that people would look me in the face, in the eyes, instead of off to the side.
Is there an acceptable size that is ok to talk to, to look at, to associate with, and a size that isn't?
Being the invisible woman for many years has been lonely. When no one sees you, no one acknowledges your presence, what do you do?
I buried myself in books, writing little stories, and learned crafty things to do with my hands.
Holly mentioned in her post about always having to be the happy one. This must be a universal fat lady thing. It seems that since we weigh more, that we must be cheerful and happy, that we must be the joyful joker and so on. How can you be happy when your body aches under the stress of its own weight? How can you feel happy when your body is sick, feeling run down, in pain from arthritic joints and hardly able to breathe under the crushing fat around your lungs? How is fat equated with a happy person? It's not true--fat does not equal happy! I have done the same, I've played the happy role to make others feel comfortable, I've made fun of myself to make others laugh and be at ease. In the end, I wasn't happy, I was embarrassed and hurting. That's not the face that people want to see in a fat person. It's like the world expects joking around and light conversation and such, like the characters in a tv show with no substance, no feelings, no needs or wants, no real life issues. It's like someone who has extra weight isn't supposed to be a real person.
Something I've noticed as well, and something Holly mentioned, is the staring. At my largest, which was well over 400 pounds, a 79 inch hip, and so on, people stared. Oh, they wouldn't do it when I saw them, but you could see from peripheral vision they'd look and stare. How many people with nearly 80 inch hips do you normally see? I dreaded having to go to the schools, or even shopping, as kids would stare and point and sometimes snicker. Parents wouldn't correct either if it was while out shopping, they simply ignored and went on. Some younger kids would come up and say "you're fat", and run off, as if telling me something I had no clue about and should know. Now, as I've gotten smaller (not thin by any means but smaller than I was), I don't see that as much. I blend in with others who are in the normal/plus size border. I don't stand out to kids or adults as I used to evidently. Evidently at my largest sizes, I was a freak show to people, based on how they stared and talked to me. Even worse is that kids would go to our kids and tell them about their mom being fat. Considering each of our 3 kids have special needs, do they really need peers telling them all about their mom/stepmom's weight problem?
I've been told when I was at my largest that I should just go apply for disability and sit around. I was too fat to work, too fat to do anything constructive with my time but eat and sleep. Yep, that was really inspiring to get moving, and I moved all the way to the fridge. What good would it do to try to get disability because I had too much fat on me? It's not a disability to be fat. While obesity can cause health problems, it can be turned around, you can lose the weight, you can get healthy. I didn't listen to that advice of applying. I couldn't bring myself to do it. It'd be a lie--I wasn't disabled, just fat.
In the past months, I've slowly become visible. The things mentioned, they don't seem to happen anymore. But, why is it acceptable to be cruel to someone who is obese, simply because they are obese? People say to simply lose weight and it won't happen. Losing weight is great, but it doesn't happen overnight, and it's not a license for people to treat others as a freak show, as if they don't exist, as if they're worthless, as if they don't have feelings. Underneath the fat is a person who feels, who has a beating heart that feels joy and pain, who cares about others, and more often than not understands loneliness and condemnation from those around them. Fat can go away with work, but the hurt left behind from cruelty doesn't go away. Scars develop, a hardened heart sometimes accompanies.
God is the only one who can heal the wounds, and in His timing, He will. He uses the hurts for His own glory, somehow piecing together torn and tattered hearts to make them whole again and useful for His work. In the past months He's been using His needle and thread and patching up old hurts and aches inside as He has worked on the outside. He's also let me see things I either chose not to see, or had simply been used to, in order to show how much I've changed, hopefully for better.
The Lord doesn't put your worth in your size. He doesn't care if you're a size 0 or a size 40. He wants your heart, your worship, your faith. He doesn't save you based on your pants size, but on your faith in Jesus. God loves you so much that He sent His son Jesus to die for you on the cross, He didn't tell Jesus "You're only dying for the skinny folks, not the fat ones". While He wants us to have a good temple for the Holy Spirit, He doesn't reject you based on size or weight. He isn't like the world, that rejects you if you don't fit into a certain size/weight category. He is the Creator of the universe, He created you, and He loves you as you are.
If you are a plus sized person, know that you're loved. You may be the invisible woman too, but you are still loved. Jesus loves you. I love you in Christ.
Shared at: Darling Downs Diaries, Soul Survival, What Joy Is Mine, Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth
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