Thursday, April 13, 2006

An Open Letter to the Girl Who Has Everything

I stood there, on that football field, in front of your boyfriend, the quarterback. The Astro turf gave, strangely, beneath me. I noticed small, unimportant things. Like how sweaty he was, how odd I found that. Had he been working that hard, I wondered?

As I stood there, my carefully cultivated ironic detachment fell away and the world felt very small. Everything seemed quiet, as I remember it, although it must have been very loud. I remember someone speaking very slowly, very calmly, very far away, in the background.

The world slowed.

Later that day I forced myself to think through all the jealous and the bitter and the weird rattling around in my brain. I thought about what your life must be like and I felt sad for how different mine must be from yours. Chances are yours isn’t that great either but you have the possibility of greatness. I honestly don’t begrudge you your happiness but it’s hard not to think – look, your boyfriend is a football quarterback, and you’re beautiful and could be a model and you’re going to be rich someday so what ever other problems you may have aren’t the first things that come to my mind.

It’s not as if I feel like you stole something from me. It’s just that it sometimes seems like so far you did a better job at life than I did and I can’t help feeling like all my hard work was just to make my fuck ups less obvious. Not even to succeed. Just to cover up my failures. Losing sixty pounds might be a nice accomplishment but it’s not really all that great when you compare it to not getting fat in the first place.

Maybe that is my fundamental burden here. I always thought I had nothing to get over because I don’t care that my husband gleefully ate seven chicken drumsticks last night while I thought punishing fat girl thoughts over every bite of pasta salad that went into my mouth. I don’t begrudge him his guiltless appetite and so I figured when they dished out the diet advice I could skip over the part where they tell you to get over that it’s not fair.

But I’m here to tell you that actually? I’m full of shit. Because really I DO think it’s unfair and I am hung up on it. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care that I can’t eat some things and other people can. What I can’t get over is that I let myself gain sixty pounds. What I care about is that I let myself get so out of control, that I let myself get so ridiculously fat, that I never pulled myself back from that edge. I’m really angry about that. I’m really disappointed in myself. I wish I had never been a fat girl, but it’s not that I’m jealous of other girls who aren’t fat. I’m jealous of all those girls who could have gotten fat, but never let themselves.

That’s why it’s so important for me to remember that this hasn’t been a circular journey. I did not do all this work to end up right back where I started. I am a stronger better person now, and I am someone I would never have been had I not gained and lost sixty pounds. I’ve learned some things I never would have learned otherwise. I’ve learned what true love looks like, blind love, at the same time as I learned how superficial the world really is. I’ve learned to run, and as I’ve watched my body change and checked out my leg muscles I’ve learned what really being proud of myself feels like, and that I like it, and I want more of it. I’ve learned to think of myself as an athlete and I’ve learned to turn the TV off. I’ve learned how to cook all over again. I’ve learned how to stick to a training schedule, and that some days are better than others, but that no matter what self defeating thoughts I think before I start out, that I can in fact run nine intervals in a row, I can in fact run 13 miles. I've learned that sometimes you eat the brownie, and sometimes you don't, that I am too hard on myself, that no one is perfect all of the time.

I like to think of all of this as practice for being happy. Even though sometimes I fail, the more I practice, the better at it I’ll be. But sometimes it’s really hard work, and when I see other people and all they have I think it must be so easy for them to be happy and that kills me. I see your football quarterback boyfriend and I believe that for you, for other people like you, maybe no practice is necessary, and happiness is easy. And my attempts, by their very nature, seem like failures.

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