I'm sure I must have been, at one time. I must have been unconscious of it, as children are supposed to be.
I just don't remember.
What I do remember is that even when I was too young to think of weighing myself at home, I took note of the weights and measures quoted to my mother by my pediatrician. I worried about them and what they might mean.
At age ten, Grade 5, my doc logged me in at 72 lbs.
"Too much," I thought at the time. 72 lbs was already much too much.
I don't know why this happened to me. I don't know what made me worry.
September 14, 1990: 72 lbs.
October 22, 1993: 117 lbs.
July 17, 1996: 125 lbs.
December 25, 1999: 130 lbs.
September 1, 2007: 173 lbs.
I remember other people's weights as well. My mother, for example, weighed 78 lbs on her wedding day. She is 5' tall and was living in India at the time. She had Malaria.
My sister, 5'2", dropped down to 90 lbs during the first trimester of her first pregnacy. She had terrible morning sickness.
After my 72 lbs weigh-in, I waited until I was alone in the house and slipped my mother's wedding dress out of her bureau to try it on. It smelled of the Irish Spring soap she keeps unwrapped in the drawers. The buttons wouldn't close.
I have wide shoulders, a broad rib cage and a wide back. Even at my thinnest, I need a bra that's close to 38 inches around. And I've never had Malaria. Nonetheless, I felt like a failure. The fact that the dress didn't fit seemed to say something about me. Something bad.
I stripped it off and went outside to smash rocks with a hammer. I turned stone after stone into piles of glittering grey-blue dust. Then I blew it all away.
I did make the swim team. Just barely. I had no real training, but I liked the water and copied the other girls' smooth strokes.
At practices, I was slotted into the slowest lane with an unfortunate, unpopular girl named Bopinder. As her body brushed past mine in the water, I'd shrink away. As if she might rub off.
Once, in the locker room, a girl talked about her body, her pool-white hand pressed across her flat, speedo-covered stomach. "From the side, I'm perfect," she said, "but from the front... ugh!"
I jumped in, eager to make a friend by way of shared experience. "Me too," I said, "But I'm okay from the front and fat from the side." I demonstrated, twisting to reveal my rounded mid section.
Even Bopinder laughed. It took me ages to understand. Those girls were smarter. They saw it right away. We were all women, all young, but we were not the same.
In those early days of high school I dropped from what I considered a disgusting 125 lbs to a borderline-acceptable 115 lbs in less than three weeks thanks to my first short-term starvation diet and fanatical exercise in the pool. I swam every morning at 6 a.m. I ate celery sticks exclusively, and only when my stomach literally ached with hunger or when I felt too dizzy to stand. At night, my pool-sore arms spazammed and shook.
Besides the celery, after each practice, I'd down a half-litre of Gatorade. The most delicious thing I'd ever tasted.
By November, I'd quit the team. At my first meet, I placed last in the 200 metre butterfly. I didn't really know the stroke. My goggles came off on my dive, scraping over my cheeks. I thought I might drown. By the time I finished, the other girls were already out of the pool.
Looking at myself in the changeroom mirror, I remember thinking that my arms looked muscled and huge. I was built "like a freight train" said my very first boyfriend, also a swimmer. He was paying me a compliment.
I left school and stumbled through my 20s and my weight crept up, keeping pace with my growing anxiety. In 2004, right before I moved in with Darrell, there was a constant churninging in my gut, a steady stream of fight or flight adrenaline in my blood. Eating until I was full -- too full to move -- helped slow my fast-beating heart.
In early 2007, I weighed 170 lbs. I lived entirely on simple carbs and alcohol. I had new, angry-red stretchmarks around my belly button. Concentric circles of ragged skin, a result of repeated rapid weight losses and subsequent gains. When I couldn't fall asleep, I'd think obsessively about my stomach and the way it sloped down to rest on the mattress.
And I'd cry.
But in 2009, I had minor health issue and went on a medication that comes with weight gain as a common side effect. In less than 6 months on the drug I zoomed back up to nearly 160 lbs. New budgundy stretchmaks appeared below the faded white ones.
And it's making me crazy. Because for once, I'm actually healthy. I eat things like quinoa and kale in normal, human amounts. I exercise occassionally, but not obsessively. My partner thinks I look great. But when I see myself, the first thing I think of is "fat." I think of the numbers on the scale and want to cry.
"You are disgusting." That's what I hear in my head. That's what I've always heard.
I only do this to myself. I only have the capacity to be this mean to myself.
I'm not a stupid person. I know it's crazy. But the knowing doesn't seem to translate. Why am I like this? How did this happen? And how can I keep it from happening? That's the most important thing. It's the thing I think about even more than the weight itself.
How can I keep this from happening to my own little neice, my own someday daughter, every other sad little girl? How can I keep them from being like me? Do you know?
* All images from Stock Xchng, by (in order of appearance) Rockelle Munsch, Phillip Collier, Marcelo Gerpe, Stephan Fleet, Alfonso Lima.