Since reaching my weight goal back in March, I’ve struggled to develop a relationship with this new and …cough… “improved” body of mine.
It’s like working with someone you don’t like much, someone who talks too much and wears cheap perfume – not a bad person, just a constant irritation. You have to work next to her and so you go to work every day and try to stay positive. Most days you can ignore her incessant talking or tolerate that extra spritz of that Chanel knockoff, but some days you just can’t and you want to scream, “Shut up!!” or “Go take a freaking shower!” And even though you don’t, you create the scene in your head of you screaming and her staring at you dumfounded. She’d probably cry. Then you’d feel really bad and apologize, saying you didn’t mean it, that you’re just having a bad day, but you really did mean it, but you can’t be honest, and then her talking gets even more tedious because she thinks you’re now best friends and she brings you a bottle of the cheap perfume because in your assuaging apology you asked her where you could get some, and now you find yourself not back at square one, but somewhere in the negative digits.
That’s sort of what it’s like most days when I change clothes, take a shower, get naked. I usually keep my gaze forward or skim over the parts I have to look at with a buff puff in one hand and shower gel in the other. There are days I actually admire parts of my naked body and take a moment to tell myself “good job.” But mostly I see the sagging and bagging that cover the muscles underneath, the ones I work so hard every day to tone.
When I was five months pregnant with my oldest daughter, I got my first stretch mark. I saw it in the mirror as I got out of the shower, a small thin line just to the right of my belly button. ‘So much for the aloe lotion and olive oil theory,’ I thought. My skinny mother, who birthed five of us, had nary a one, but I don’t take after my mother in any physical way and I so my belly, four months later, was littered with thick pink stretch marks.
When daughter number two came along, I was blessed with a few more reminders of stretched skin along my hips and breasts. Just as she did all the time growing up, daughter number two had to one-up her sister.
Over the years, I learned to live with my little “flap” of belly and the stretch marks faded to white. I had two awesome kids and in a weird way the skin and marks made me feel even more like a woman.
But a non-functioning thyroid and the obesity that ensued is hardly like birthing a child. Skin, once stretched, doesn’t just go away when the fat underneath disappears. Skin merely deflates. And now, after losing 159 pounds, I have excess skin in my inner thighs, upper arms and armpits, and on my belly. This excess skin is not a “war wound.” It is a constant reminder of the years I spent fat and anxious and self-conscious.
Of course that is the negative view, the irritating co-worker metaphor. I could look at the skin as just another marker of my life journey, in the same way that my scars mark the surgeries I’ve had. I tell myself I’m just being vain, that my health is what matters, the fact that I now wear a size 8 and not a 32 is what matters, that no one else besides me cares if I have excess skin or not. It isn’t important like global warming or the deficit. It’s just some skin, Lynn. Get over yourself.
But here’s the deal: I’ve worked so hard to be the weight that I am and I’ve overcome a lot of physical and emotional obstacles to be where I am today. These issues might not be as big as the war in Iraq, but they are mine and they matter to me. I color my hair because I refuse to be gray at 43. I wear makeup and jewelry to enhance my appearance. Why then shouldn’t I get rid of this excess skin if it will make me feel better about myself?
Herein lies the problem. I don’t have $20-$30K lying around to pay a plastic surgeon. That’s the bottom line.
And so I will work with the irritating co-worker. We’ll never be best friends, but maybe I can get her to talk about something interesting and perhaps buy her some better perfume. As Stephen Stills sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”