Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Bikini

“I call myself a FFP: former fat person, and when you’re an FFP, you will always see in yourself what people used to bully you for.” – Kelly Osbourne

I tried on a bikini today.

That may not sound like much to a lot of people, but in the grand world of fears, that one’s pretty much up there with going to the dentist naked while the entire world watches the dentist rip out my teeth using a dull spoon (without drugs). So it was kind of a big deal.

I was shopping for a new swimsuit because my old swimsuit is too big. I had to pause for a moment when I realized that. Ever since I wore a swimsuit once without checking it and it turned out to have a hole in the bum, I try my swimsuits on before each season now. As I was putting on last season’s, it sagged in the seat, and the back was all baggy. Wow.

So my kids and I went shopping. Swimsuit shopping is just the worst kind of torture (for me, anyway). However, I actually managed to find several that I thought were appealing. Then, as we were on our way to the fitting room, we passed between two racks of bikinis. One of them caught my eye. The pattern was very cute, and the top was cut in a flattering way. Emma encouraged me to just try it on.

I had always been The Fat Girl. Throughout middle school and high school I was relentlessly bullied for my weight, called names like Fatso, Fat-Ass, Bubble-Butt, Fat Cow, Lard-Ass, and other like-wise creative names. I had always owned swimsuits, and had been swimming my entire life, but I have never known what it’s like to truly feel comfortable in a swimsuit.

I have never worn a bikini. Who wants to see The Fat Girl in a bikini? But we reached the fitting room and Emma (who likes to carry the clothes when we are shopping), solemnly handed me the swimsuits to try on and said, “Good luck, Mom. Make sure you show them to me! Try on the bikini first!”

Dutifully, I stripped down and put on the bikini. Dear God I felt exposed. I just stood there, not quite sure how to evaluate it. Ok, it fit. Wait… It fit? What the hell? I was so surprised by this that I didn’t do anything for a few minutes. Finally, Emma knocked on the door. “Mom? You okay in there?” I opened the door to show them and get their opinion.

“Oh, that’s so cute!” Emma said. Violet agreed.

“Do you think so?” I worried. “I don’t know. I’m a mom. Should moms even wear bikinis? And it shows off my tummy. Should I be showing my tummy? Should my tummy be covered? And my scar. I don’t want people constantly asking about my scar.” They were looking at me like I was a little crazy by this point, and rightly so.

I have a long scar on my abdomen from an old surgery. I’m not ashamed of it, but I also don’t want to put it on display. And of course, a bikini hides nothing, so every little bump and ripple that’s left from my 140-pound weight loss will show. It doesn’t matter that I wear a single-digit size now. I still feel fat on the inside. But those are my personal, inside issues. That is what I project people will see. Because when I look in the mirror, I am looking for my flaws, I’m looking for what’s wrong. I’m looking for every bad thing that someone could see so that I can fix it before they see it.

What kind of sick and twisted way is that of looking at yourself?

I am a Former Fat Girl. From the time I was a young teen all the way to my mid-thirties, I was a big girl. And while no, “fat” is not the worst thing a person can be, unfortunately we live in a society where calling someone “fat” goes beyond a mere statement of their size. Society uses the “fat” label to make a statement about someone’s worth, someone’s value, and someone’s overall place in the social order.

I do not want to be defined by my inner fat girl. I do not want my girls to grow up thinking that only people with no ripples or bumps can wear a bikini. I don’t want them to think that scars have to be covered, hidden, as if they are shameful. No. I want my children to look in the mirror and see the good, not the bad. How can I expect them to do that if I don’t show them how it’s done?

I bought the bikini.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Am I Hearing This Right?

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

This all started out innocuously enough: just little things. I would miss a word here or there in conversation, or I didn’t realize someone was speaking to me until they called me by name. But then, two years ago, I noticed I was having to ask people to repeat themselves more often than I used to. And gradually I was turning up the TV just a little at a time. I could mask it at work a lot by watching people talk, by watching their lips move, but lately, it’s gotten much worse. There’s simply no denying it any longer.

I’m losing my hearing.

I’ve been denying this for a long time because at first I thought, “No, I’m much too young for this. I’m only in my 30’s for goodness sake.” So I pretended it wasn’t happening. I can’t pretend any longer. There are certain pitches I can’t hear at all now, and that scares me. I asked my doctor for a referral to an ENT and today I went.

My diagnosis? Sensorineural Hearing Loss. It’s permanent hearing loss. There’s no medication or surgery that can correct it, it cannot be reversed, and it will get worse. My doctor was surprised to see the onset of it in someone so young since it began a couple of years ago.

“It will get worse,” she told me.

This was so much to take in. Worse? I thought for a moment. “Is there a timeline?” I asked her.

She said that there is no way of knowing when I will lose my hearing. I have hearing loss in both ears. It’s a little different in each ear, but they equal each other out. My high register is almost completely gone except for the tinnitus (ringing) that I continually experience. My doctor said that is very common with hearing loss. Thin sounds are harder to hear than rich sounds. I could lose my hearing in ten years, or in forty. We can’t know.

I’ll have to have yearly hearing exams to monitor my progress. Hope is not lost, though. Tomorrow I have a consultation at the hearing aid office. We will discuss everything from hearing aids to cochlear implants. They are working hard to keep me in the hearing world so the voices of my children remain a reality to me, and not just a memory. I can’t imagine not hearing them call my name, not hearing them laugh, not hearing them chatter on about their days. That latent parental wish for just five minutes of silence may turn into far more than I ever desired.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Single in a Double's Game

“I can’t even find someone for a platonic relationship, much less the kind where someone wants to see me naked.” – Gilbert Gottfried

This single parenting is hard sometimes. I do the cooking, the cleaning, the driving, have all “the talks”, and hold down a full-time job. I am both mother and father to my kids. But, I have the greatest bond with my children. They can (and do) talk to me about anything. They know I will never lie to them, and in their entire lives, I am proud to say I have never broken a promise to either of them. They know – for sure – they can count on me.

I miss that.

I miss having someone I can count on, someone I can go to for anything that I need, or anything I need to talk about. I miss being able to count on someone “for sure”.

I’m very aware – now more than ever, as my children are growing older and hyper alert to their surroundings – that I am a living, breathing model of relationships for my children. So I worry about “the wrong guy”. To make sure I don’t bring home the wrong guy, I simply haven’t dated. At all. And my kids are fine with that, of course. They like having me all to themselves. But the other side of them growing older is that they need me less. I can see in 5 years when Violet leaves for college how quiet it will be. In nine years, Emma will leave, and I will be left with the dogs and…what else, exactly? It sounds as though I am worrying far in advance, but I am not. I simply know how quickly these past nine years have passed.

The strong solidity of a man’s chest beneath my cheek as he wraps me in a great hug is a lost sensation. The happiness of walking with my hand in his, of his arm stealing about my waist or of his hand touching my hair: these light, delicate moments of love are taken for granted by so many people, but have been lost to me. I miss laughing with someone, date nights, and all the little touches that make a relationship special.

Why is it so difficult to meet someone?

Probably because I go to work, pick the kids up from school, and come home. Lather, rinse, repeat. I am patient, though, and as my mother always told me, “better no man than the wrong man.” But then I wonder, because as parents we always second-guess ourselves and think we are going to screw our kids up with our decisions, am I truly showing my kids a healthy life? I am, right? I am showing my girls what it is to be a strong, independent woman capable of supporting herself and her children. But I am not showing them what a healthy romantic relationship looks like because I don’t have one. Will they be able learn what that is on their own? I wish I had a partner to talk to about this, but – ironically – if I had one, I wouldn’t need to talk to him about it.

Maybe, somehow, I’ll meet someone. Maybe – magically – the one eligible male English teacher out there will come work in my English department so we can meet. Or perhaps one of my few friends will realize she has the perfect friend I simply must meet. And I do hope for my Hollywood-style meet-cute in the local Wal-Mart: attractive stranger and I both reach for the last gallon of skim milk, hands touch, sparks ensue, romantic music swells in the background. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still very excited about the possibility. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Adventure Time

“Whatever course you have chosen for yourself, it will not be a chore but an adventure if you bring to it a sense of the glory of striving.” – David Sarnoff

Ahhh, spring break. We didn’t have anything planned other than thoroughly enjoying the fact that we didn’t have to get up and go to school. Violet was out of town visiting her grandparents, so it was just Emma and me. I decided we needed an adventure.

We live in Tyler, a medium-sized city in east Texas, so I decided for an adventure we would go to Dallas, visit the Dallas World Aquarium, take in dinner and a show at Medieval Times, and – treat of treats for Emma – spend the night in a hotel. The only times Emma had been to Dallas before were to visit the super-specialist for her ear and to have ear surgery, so this was quite a different trip.

Car trips certainly have evolved since I was a kid. I remember having to ride in silence, staring out the window in a vain attempt to entertain myself with the passing landmarks. God bless the inventor of the portable DVD player (and headphones). It cuts down on the relentless “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” questions. The down side of this, of course, is I learned not to have to ask those questions because of those landmarks I became so familiar with. We had to pass X, Y, and Z before we reached our destination. Because of the focus on technology, kids today don’t learn to read landmarks. They hardly look out windows on car trips.

Now, I am not confident driving in Dallas. I am not – in any way – a “big city” kind of girl. And downtown Dallas is complicated. Roads merge, lanes peel off or become “exit only”, and there is always so much traffic. We went straight to the Dallas World Aquarium…or at least, that was the plan.

Turns out, it’s really easy to get lost in Dallas.

The directions on the DWA website seemed quite clear and straightforward. That probably should have alerted me. Alas, it did not, so I didn’t turn on my GPS. I simply went by the driving directions they provided. Oops. We did get a lovely, unplanned driving tour of downtown Dallas, and beyond, by the time it occurred to me that we were lost. So I activated my GPS, and it’s a good thing I did. I never would have found the Aquarium had I not.

Emma was flabbergasted that we had to pay for parking. “It’s Dallas, honey,” I told her. “Nothing’s free in Dallas.” (I was later happily proved wrong about this.)

We spent hours at the Dallas World Aquarium. There was so much to see! No, it’s not just fish (don’t let the name “Aquarium” fool you). It’s all rain forest-y (there’s even a waterfall!), and the colors on the birds are brighter than anything I’ve ever seen. There were monkeys, otters, flamingos, and we even got up close and personal to a sloth. The sloth was not in a cage or behind a net. He’s out in the open, on a tree, just (very) slowly climbing and swinging. He was pretty adorable. When I took a picture, he actually turned his head to look at me. It was pretty awesome (and slightly creepy in that it looks like he’s smiling at me).


Of course, there were the fish, too. And penguins. The penguins were adorable. They stood there like little superheroes, like they were just totally unimpressed with all the attention and were completely above it all. I loved them.

Emma and the overly proud penguins

After DWA, it was time for dinner, so we headed to Medieval Times. Emma’s eyes grew large when she beheld the castle. “This is an awesome adventure!” she said. We had time before they began seating, so we took photos inside the castle, visited the gift shop, and looked at the horses. I wanted a souvenir goblet (every girl should have a special cup), so I went to the bar (what good is an empty cup?). I ordered a Pepsi (they didn’t have Coke) in my pretty cup and saw that they had kid cups also. I asked for some water for Emma in a souvenir kid cup.

Emma with my purple goblet

Here’s the amazing thing.

The bartender didn’t charge me for the kid cup. Even though it was a Medieval Times holographic cup, he gave it to us for free! Emma looked at him, said “thank you!” without me even having to prompt her, and just beamed. As we walked away, she said, “I thought you said nothing was free in Dallas?”

I said, “Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. He was giving you a present.”

They called us to our seats and introduced the knights. We were rooting for the Blue Knight. We waved our little banners and shouted our cheers (whilst wearing our crowns, of course). The Blue Knight had three carnations that he tossed to three ladies in the audience; Emma was one of those select three. He tossed her the flower, bowed, and winked at her.

What is it about my child?

The Blue Knight

He didn’t hear her “thank you”, so the next time he rode by she stood up and shouted it. He smiled and bowed again. She was so pleased that he heard her. She said, “I just really wanted him to know I love my flower!”

After the show, we drove to the hotel and checked in. Emma thinks hotels are very exciting, but on our many trips to the ear specialist I learned that she needs her own bed. Not only does she talk in her sleep, but she also kicks like a Rockette. She rhapsodized about the squishiness of the pillows, the coffee maker (not that she drinks coffee), the tiny shampoo bottles, and the fact that we had an ice bucket and could get as much ice as we wanted. I love going to hotels with her. She makes me appreciate them so much more.

The next morning, we woke up slowly and hung out in the hotel room until the go-to-work traffic in downtown Dallas died down a little bit. We got everything packed up and finally left about 8:45. To cap off our Grand Dallas Adventure, we stopped – where else? – at Denny’s on Beltline Rd. for breakfast. This has become our tradition every time we come to Dallas, and for this trip it was the cherry on top.

Our Dallas trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at Denny's!

As we sat and waited for our food to be delivered, Emma leaned into me, hugged me hard, and said, “Thank you for inviting me on our adventure. It was the best!”

The appreciation, the thank-yous, the genuine joy in each moment: these are all what made the adventure so great. I had the greatest companion for my adventure. I’ll remember this time just the two of us were able to spend together. I’ll remember the sparkles in her eyes when she saw the horses, the smile when the knight tossed her the flower, the giggles when she saw the sloth, and the warmth of the hugs she spontaneously gave me.

The sparkles, smiles, giggles, and hugs were – and will always be – the very best part of all my adventures with Emma. I look forward to many more.