This is the second part in a three-part series.
Trust has been a recurrent theme and struggle in my life. From too early an age I saw those who wore the mask, those who chose to, those who didn’t know it existed and those who reveled and relished in its existence. I spent much of my childhood alone, either in my room or outside in our carport because my mother yelled, “Go outside and play!” I had a sense of self and memories of laying in my own crib as an infant or early toddler. I remember the moment when I realized that my parents weren’t quite what they seemed, when adults became human and when friends fumbled over their pretty lies to soften the heavy blows they dealt me with each one.
I was five years old when I first accepted that wearing the mask was both easier and better than facing anything real. Ridicule, shame and guilt proved far more pain than the truth and my own honesty was worth. When the trust and the lies entwined in such a delicate pattern that they appeared as a truer tapestry of reality than the one I thought I knew; I was the victim, in denial, who tried to cover up her own abuse. At seven years old I denied, to the police and to lawyers, my own instance of sexual molestation. I thought if I kept the mask on that they would just let me be a kid for a bit longer, that I wouldn’t have to go on the witness stand and perhaps I wouldn’t be in trouble or punished.
Unfortunately the real punishment was the pattern itself repeating, at fourteen years old. This early bloomer was suddenly knee deep in hot-stoner-boy-paradise and hungry for teenage make outs, stolen moments and quickly forgotten promises. Heartbreak, heartache, shame and stigma all swirled in my adolescent brain until I believed that to live meant to always be in pain. I met my abuser six months later. For the next five years I was a near-hostage in my own home. The abuse began slowly and was always followed with apologies and gestures. And the day he nearly killed me and I regained consciousness cursing that he hadn’t, I knew it was too late to take the mask off. The mask became my savior and my survival.
I clung to fantasy and took every chance to escape choosing to deal with the punishment and abuse rather than lose or waste the opportunity. I grew to trust no one. If I trusted I could be killed. This is what I was told and what I believed. I had only one friend by this time who stuck by me through it all )and I am so blessed to still call her my friend and chosen sister today), but we chose to talk about it only rarely and I sugarcoated what little I shared. When at last my independence and final escape from that hellish existence presented itself I leaped without looking. I had no identity of my own, no life or much in the way of possessions. I am alive today because of that leap.
I trusted only that I breathed and walked and lived. I trusted only that the sun would set and the moon would come, eventually, to greet me and my insomnia. I soon reunited with old and made new friends, I met boys and trusted too soon. I fell in love and had my heart broken. It was all too much and pretending that all past abuses never occurred, I nearly took my life over that heartbreak. When a kindred spirit found me in the most vulnerable moment of my life and made me laugh, we became instant friends. When heartbreak visited him and he found himself on the cliff of self destruction, we bonded through our pain and self loathing and we became more and eventually married (we were together for 14 years, married for 8).
When lost in the corporate abyss, carrying the weight of that same old self loathing, I caught a glimpse of my life and how it contrasted with others. I saw that while the abuses I have survived have shaped me, they have also kept me more honest than I knew. It was around this time that I first heard about the fat acceptance movement in BUST magazine in an article about the U.K. Chubsters, a fat gang of radical bad asses. I saw punk incarnate! I saw the core of my very being right there on the page (magazine and web). In a sea of cubicles, I was done with the energy and effort wasted on hating myself and my body, in the name of fitting in/getting ahead/being popular/accepted. I was finally ready to get to know me.
I obsessed and gathered and researched all I could on fat acceptance at first. It’s all I cared about for awhile. It was all so exciting and new. It empowered and inspired me to be my best and truest self. I faced my fears and my inner demons, discovered new truths about my personality and needs, it connected me most importantly to my body. For the first time in my entire life I heard from people all over the world that I should trust my body. That I should embrace and love my body. That I shouldn’t feel bad or shamed or guilty for having a fat body. They said that I could be sexy and have better sex, too! I got to know myself more and more each day and began to share what I was feeling, and what I had been through and survived, with others.
While it took years for me to be able to accept a compliment of any nature, I can now look back and smile at my life no matter how lost or turbulent it was at times. I had found a way to live a life that was true to me and was ready to leave the mask behind for good. I resisted diet talk and educated anyone with an open ear (and mind) on the beauty of self acceptance and love. I tried new things and discovered that I was worthy and could wear cute dresses. I was encouraged and inspired by my fat community to open and operate my own café, even though I had a fat body. I was empowered and strong and no one could stop me, but me. I did what I was told was impossible and smiled in the face of every fucking obstacle that came my way.
(Stay tuned for part three tomorrow!)