To Care (what people think) or Not To Care? That is the Question.

My brother-in-law and me in our (unintended) color-coordinated shirts.

I thought it was 1993 since I last saw my brother-in-law, but when he was here for a visit yesterday, he said it was probably 1997. Either way, it’s been a long time, and in all those years, I’ve gained, lost, gained, lost, gained, lost, and gained a lot of weight.

Oh, and I’ve gone gray.

And you know how much my brother-in-law cared about any of that? He didn’t. It didn’t even come up until he sent me a photo he’d taken of my partner, my daughter, her husband, and me sitting at our lunch table, and it was me who texted back: “Not my most flattering angle” with a giggle emoji.

Back in “the day” (and you can pick any day between the time I was cognizant of my body to a few years ago) I cared, to varying degrees, what other people thought about my weight and what I looked like, and all that “caring” took up a lot of space in my head.

Maybe it’s because I’m almost 60 and have more pressing things to care about (like which knee to have replaced first, for instance) that what I look like to other people has taken a middle seat in the SUV that is my brain. Middle seat because I won’t kid myself thinking I can actually ever not care what people think. I am, after all, Lynn Haraldson: Worrier Extraordinaire. But in many ways, I’ve moved past the immediacy of caring and onto the experiences I’d miss by caring.

Part of this is out of necessity. In order to promote my upcoming book, An Obesity of Grief: A Journey from Traumatic Loss to Undying Love, I will need to talk to people I don’t know, at least well, both online and in person, and if I worry about what they think about my weight or graying hair, I won’t be able to give my book my full attention. And considering my book touches on body acceptance, it would make me a big old hypocrite if my vibe is, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

During interviews and in-person meet-ups, I’ll wear makeup and do my hair, of course. It’s not that I don’t want to look my best; I just can’t worry about looking like someone else’s definition of my best.

If you haven’t preordered my book and want to read something first before you decide, or if you’re unfamiliar with my “weighty” past, below is an excerpt. While the book focuses mostly on my grief after my husband was killed, weight and self-esteem were my grief’s BFFs.

From An Obesity of Grief: A Journey from Traumatic Loss to Undying Love, circa 2007:

Only recently have I begun to examine how I speak about my body. Last year, at a doctor’s appointment, when all I wanted was to weigh less than 200 pounds for the first time in six years, a woman I never saw changed my perspective.

A nurse called me back to the room with the scale. I took off my boots and coat and stripped down to a T-shirt and spandex shorts. My stomach was empty, and I’d hit the bathroom a few minutes earlier. I stepped on the scale and exhaled, like breath has weight. I didn’t care if I weighed 199.9, so long as that first number wasn’t a two.

I’m moving back to Onederland, I just know it!

When the screen stopped blinking, I saw two ones. Both in the wrong place: 201.1.

Damn it!

I grabbed my shoes and clothes and followed the nurse to the exam room across the hall.

I’ve worked so hard this time, changed so many things . . .

As I dressed, the nurse called another woman back to the room with the scale. Before she cleared my number, I heard the woman say, “Oh, I wish I weighed that.”

I almost tripped over my pant leg.

What? Did she say she wants to weigh 200 pounds? Who wants to weigh 200 pounds?

You did, that’s who. One hundred pounds ago. Remember?

I finished dressing and sat down. I thought about how weight has always been like a centipede crawling up my leg. Get it off me, now! Give me normal cholesterol numbers now! Normal blood pressure now! No more prediabetes now! I never offered kindness to the me who decided in the first place to normalize her health.

I silently thanked the woman who lamented her weight for helping me view bodies in a different light.

This new perspective was like when you buy a new car, and you notice the same make and model everywhere. A few months later, when I was helping Cassie plan her wedding, I made an appointment with a woman who had a wedding cake baking business in her home. She’d never met me and so, of course, had no idea I once weighed 300 pounds. At the time, I weighed about 170, and if it was the first time you had ever seen me, the thought might cross your mind that I was overweight. We sat down at her dining room table: the woman, me, and the woman’s twenty-something daughter, whose leg was in a large metal brace.

We talked briefly about cupcakes when, out of nowhere, the woman outright apologized to me for her daughter’s weight. The girl looked mortified but seemed used to her mother’s behavior because she immediately launched into an explanation (read: she was apologizing, too). She was on some high school sports team when she was in a horrific accident that crushed her leg. Subsequently, she spent months in rehab and, apparently, gaining weight. Her mother then said, “She has such a pretty face, doesn’t she? If only . . .” and in that moment, I thought I was going to lose my shit all over her unbelievably horrible parenting ass. Instead, I smiled at the girl and told her how sorry I was, and I didn’t mean sorry for her weight.

A few weeks after Cassie’s wedding, I was in our local coffee shop and the woman standing in front of me, who I knew vaguely, ordered a muffin and a mocha. When she turned and saw me, she said, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t, especially standing next to you!”

I wanted to say that I understood, that I, too, had learned at some point in my life that fat people should apologize for making thinner people uncomfortable, apologize for their bodies, food choices, or even existing.

“I’m not the food police,” I said. “What you choose to eat is no one’s business.”

But I suspect my words fell flat. Easy for you to say is what I would have been thinking if our roles were reversed. I had a lot to learn about communicating body positivity.

One thought on “To Care (what people think) or Not To Care? That is the Question.

  1. Lynn I loved your excerpt. We all have baggage of some sort and it does shape how we see ourselves, dress, act and so on. Janet

    Sent from my iPhone


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