I recently said to my sister that when my daughter leaves for college next year, I’ll finally be able to take off the baby weight. I was kidding. I’m really not that kind of person, the kind who obsesses over calories and food intake and exercise.
I like my cheese and bread and chocolate too much to care about that sort of thing. Not that I’m unhealthy or even particularly that overweight. Sure, I could stand to lose 10 pounds (okay, maybe 15), but I won’t succumb to the idea that the extra weight I’m carrying, and have been for a while now, makes me less of anything–less attractive, less lovable.
Sometimes, I call it my widow weight although ironically, I didn’t gain it until I met my new love. It was a year after my husband died, and things got serious pretty quickly. Because my husband and I had experienced fertility issues, I hadn’t worried about birth control in years, but my doctor said that it could be a different story with a different man…. and while it seemed so ridiculous–I’m in my 40s for God’s sake!–I thought, OK, the Pill.
It didn’t go well.
The extra estrogen wreaked havoc on my body. The mood swings and constant bleeding did me no good. So even though I stopped taking the Pill after about eight weeks, whatever weight I gained as a side effect is still with me some three years later. I’m not sure my boyfriend has noticed or cared; it’s just a few years in but we are still “new-ish-ly” in love. It’s wonderful.
Still, the first thing all of my friends wanted to know when they heard about him was, what it was like being with someone new after being married for so long. They didn’t mean the mechanics of what happened when we were naked together, what they meant was being naked. In a middle-aged body.
Sags, rolls, wrinkles and all. I told them it’s amazing how easy it was. The novelty of intimacy with someone new felt very freeing. It was exciting to explore a new body, and I know that my guy felt the same way.
My husband would have noticed the extra weight. He loved my body (and I have the Post-It notes he would leave me around the house to prove it!) but he would sometimes grab the roll of skin on my back that every now and then would make an appearance. By no means was he critical or upset with my expanding figure, ever. “Just more of you to love,” he would joke.
But after 20 years together, he knew the difference between svelte me and curvy me. My boyfriend does not.
I have a friend who actually has a rule in her marriage. They were practically still underneath the chuppah when they agreed to never weigh five pounds more than they did on their wedding day. They’ve been married at least 20 years, and have lived a full life together. They are a fun and interesting couple, but I’m pretty sure she has an eating disorder. If anything, she’s gotten thinner. It makes me sad, this obsession with food and eating and weight in our culture.
As a mother to an impressionable teenage girl, it actually kills me sometimes. I have friends who when we meet for lunch will say things like, “I’m starving. All I’ve had today is coffee and half a banana.” I think they think that the cataloguing gives them license to eat the entire bread basket before our salads arrive, dressing on the side. Personally, I’ll eat the bread basket with butter or olive oil, no matter what I have or haven’t eaten already that day.
I have another friend who is large and unashamed of it. I love her for so many reasons: She’s smart, funny, kind… and happy! She loves her life, her family… and her food. Meeting her for dinner is a treat. “Let’s get an appetizer!” she’ll say. And when the main course is finished and the waiter asks if we would like to see the dessert menu, she will always say “yes, please!” It’s refreshing.
Maybe it’s because I’m middle aged, or a widow, or just because I know the pain of what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in your own skin—I am an American woman, after all (and we all know that French Women Don’t Get Fat!).
But somehow, I have learned to accept how I look, extra pounds and all. When and if I care to, I’ll eat less and move more. At my age, I know that losing weight really is that simple.
In the meantime, I’m going to a birthday party next weekend. I can’t wait to get dressed up and see my friends… but the thing I’m looking forward to most is the cake.