I’ve been thinking about what scares me - really scares me. I’m not a fan of suspense films. Slasher flics don’t bother me. I know going in they’ll be gory. Suspense pics keep me on edge never knowing when the AAAHHH moment will jump out at me. Walking to one’s car in dark and empty parking lots can quicken the pulse - same for venturing out at night onto dark and lonely streets. I had a friend who suggested that if I ever imagined I was being followed, I should wave my arms about and talk to my self as if I were dangerously unhinged. That may have worked a decade ago but now, my assailant would just think I was babbling on my cell phone. I am an actress and even though I have been performing for many, many years, that moment before stepping onto a stage, hearing the hum from a waiting audience can get my adrenalin pumping fear through every fiber of my being, but NOTHING is as terrifying to me as circling the plus size section in a department store in search of a bathing suit. I know that no matter which one I will pick, with the hope that its new and improved tummy technology will actually make mine disappear, all the while knowing the crisscrossed inner-paneling won’t work to flatten and lift as promised. I am positive there isn’t anything but a turn-of-the-century flopsie two-piece swimming-suit that covers from ankle to neck and comes with a large obscuring parasol, guaranteeing almost total concealment that would lull me into a sense of calm about going to a beach or a poolside party. Having to drop my oversize Turkish bath towel and walk towards my social execution in nothing but a hideous and matronly bathing suit scares me more than almost anything. I could ride in an elevator to the top most spire of the Empire State Building with a fasting and now ravenous Hannibal Lechter and be more at ease.
All that got me thinking about the right to bare arms. I don’t think anyone other than Michelle Obama has the right to do that, unless they’re fifteen. Michelle Obama’s arms need their own special place on Mount Rushmore. The sculptor would swoon with joy while chiseling those most glorious of chiseled arms. It’s not fair. I’ve heard women complain about their arms forever, and how when they gesture with them, it’s akin to a Canada Day flag-waving spectacle. This is not a contest that I want to win but trust me, hands down, arms up, I would be the champion. I have not worn anything sleeveless since 1982. I do arm raises and punch-outs with weights; I force-march almost every day with arms swinging. Still my arms have ruffles on the underside making them look like a pair of Italian lampshades. My arms belong to a potato picking-peasant woman from an Eastern Bloc country back in the late 1800’s.
Having spent most of my life on one diet or another, I can honestly say they all worked; as long as I never stepped out of that food monastery of rigidity I was safe. I am good at not eating. I can starve like a champion, and how awful is it that I am so good at something that real hungry people the world over don’t have a choice about. But at some point one has to step back out into the real world.
When that invitation lands in my mail-box or inbox emblazoned with frolicking bathing suited images of laughing young girls dressed in polka dotted strings and things tossing their beach balls in the air, promising a ‘fun time’ by the pool. I feel flop sweat at the nape of my neck preparing to beginning to gather. It’s the first sign of an imminent panic attack. My next move, is a hastily written response declining as I have a previous engagement. Sadly, the inviter knows I don’t. Let the starvation ritual begin. Armed with a diet re-entry plan and a martyr-like zeal to remain vigilant against all the siren calls from my old friends cheese, chocolate and all things potato. As a side note, these foods are known for alleviating high stress levels. They are even better known for adding extra pounds. Instead, while the will still exists, I begin drinking my eighth glass of water to fill me up so as to keep me from succumbing to temptation.
Having only had two weeks to change my ample body into a sylph worthy of lounging poolside, I arrive at my poolside execution wearing layers. Perhaps a better description would be, a shroud. I pretend I’m allergic to the sun. I sip my water. Truly, I gulp it as I’m broiling under my protective layers. I know all about body positivity. I am positive that I don’t have any.
As the beach ball throwing and high pitches fits of laughter surround me, I am overcome with something, perhaps chocolate-lust, maybe even something far more deep-seated but not yet an identifiable feeling will begin brewing and then BAM! - A volcanic, very familiar, roiling resentment at being the not so young fat woman at the party bubbles to the surface and with all good intentions, a tiny sliver of cake is inhaled. Just a small taste… But then the damage is done. An unleashed starving woman emerges. I am on a rampage looking to fill a hole that has nothing to do with food.
Life is filled with myriad ups and downs and we cannot always be Silicon coated and stay the healthy course we would most want to be on. Sometimes we just cave in to the pressures and when we do - if we are prone to reaching for comfort in the way of food - our slip up, our pain, our anxiety… It shows. Let’s all cut each other some slack. Be kind. We are all in this together. One little favour… Please don’t invite me to your pool party!