Thursday, January 12, 2006

(Self) Piteous Reflection

I stopped by the the gift shop of my hotel today, innocently intent on buying a bottle of water. It's a small & poorly laid-out gift shop, and the doorway was completely blocked by a large roller bag. I asked - politely, casually, "please" included - the small, attractive blonde woman if she'd move her luggage. Instead of the cheerful compliance I expected, she glared at me, slowly looked me up and down and said, "you could stand to lose a few pounds. If you weren't so fat, maybe you could get by." (While I am fully aware that this obserervation is far enough from the point to be in a different galaxy, let the record state that Kate Moss couldn't have squeezed past her luggage.) It was a sickening moment: I froze, then felt the weird rush I associate with extreme moments of humiliation: sudden shivering cold, followed by a flash of heat that settles uncomfortably in your stomach. She was staring at me with a smug little smile, but had pulled back her luggage enough for me to unfreeze and scurry (plod? lumber?) past her into the store.

In the time it took me to grab water & take it to the register, I'd processed enough to feel absolute fury, liberally spiced with righteous indignation. I walked out to the lobby where a couple colleagues were waiting for me, and there she sat - just a few seats away from them. I snapped (and probably evened the karmic scales) and pointed to her. "That woman," I said, miraculously managing an amused laugh, "just called me fat." They expressed appropriate disbelief and horror, staring right at her. She'd just opened her laptop and was staring fixedly at it. They demanded the story, which I relayed briefly. As we gathered up our luggage and coats to leave, they kept loudly marveling at how insane, cruel and unacceptable her behavior was. She did turn red at first and refuse to look up, but as I was walking away, she looked right at me and gave me an evilly sweet smile. I'm still shocked, actually, that I'm sitting on a plane typing, rather than sitting in a jail on assault charges, cowering.

I'm disappointed that this incident is what prompted me to finally write an entry in here, but I'll muster sadly on... I have to admit that body issues, centering around my weight, have been on my mind a lot recently, so it's not such a surprise that this triggered the blog babble mechanism for me. But, before I continue I need to offer a couple (possibly asinine, ludicrous or both) facts and disclaimers:
  • I am, indeed, overweight.
  • This posts contains levels of self-pity that may prove lethal to small children and animals.
  • While I have my moments of troubling, depressing insecurity over my weight, it's not something that regularly bothers or upsets me. My self-esteem isn't perfect, but it is made of pretty solid stuff.
  • I expected my blog to be a place of fun & (attempted) wit. Not to mention this is far more personal of an entry than I ever imagined posting.
  • Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog.
As people in the Hizzy know, I recently indulged in a big nostalgia project when I was home spending the holidays with my family. My parents have a big box of unsorted photographs that go back a couple of decades, and I went through them all & scanned a number of them to upload. It was wonderfully nostalgic: fun, funny, bittersweet, reflective. But I found myself shocked, amazed & sadly enthralled by one picture:
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It was taken when I was in college, but could've been anywhere from my early to late twenties. (Ugly cabinets tell me that it predates Hurricane Andrew, though, which while tragic, did get rid of those cabinets and give my mom her dream kitchen.) Including this picture in this entry must smack of a weird sort of defensive narcissim: "Marvel at how thin I was! I may be all kinds of fat pudginess now, but look! Look! I was thin! I was so much closer to a societally acceptable idea of beauty!" But really, that's not what sparked my fascination with it. Rather, it was the memory of how much I hated my body beginning in my teens and through my mid-twenties. It was insane, it was ludicrous. I remember hating to shop for clothes because I felt so many made me look like a whale. I remember dreading, to the point of nausea, boyfriends seeing my whole naked body for the first time.

And in the interim between discovering that picture a few weeks ago and the incident today, I've had this corny daydream of traveling back in time to meet up with my old self to give her a hug, then a sharp slap, and implore, nay, demand, that she love and appreciate her body & herself. To tell her that one day she's going to be fatter, but much more secure & generally happier. But given how upset I am, how much I keep staring down at my rolled, Buddha-esque belly & overly ample thighs and feeling a horrible mixture of self-hatred and panic, I realize I couldn't have that conversation with her without being a complete hypocrite. Because, clearly, this is a far greater issue for me than I've let myself realize. If I was as secure as I thought, one random comment from a cruel stranger wouldn't have had this effect.

So, I don't know where I am anymore with respect to my body or how much my self-esteem is tied-up in it. I trust I'll bounce right back as I'm wont to do: that in a few days (or maybe even tomorrow), I'll be back to my normal self, laughing at how upset and melodramatically philosophical I got over this incident. I'll accept again the idea that any insecurity I feel is within normal ranges & can't be avoided. But I think my return to that accustomed place will be sullied by niggling disbelief. I know now that I've been fooling myself, to some extent, about the degree of self-acceptance and self-love I have for myself. In addition to feeling sad and angry, I'm feeling oddly unsure & discombobulated. I do know, though, that I'm angry. At this point I'm not sure, however, if I'm angrier at her or myself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brit, my heart hurts for you. And you are not self-pitying. You are an incredibly strong, beautiful and amazing woman. I admire and respect you endlessly. And I am a better person for having met you.

I punch, stab and kick her repeatedly in the throat and the stomach. What a truly miserable woman she must be. She's clearly ugly on the inside.

I love you!

5:00 PM  
Blogger Diane Kristine said...

Aww, Brit, and here I was checking to see if you’d done the meme yet. I guess you had bigger things on your mind. You’ve talked me off the ledge after some irrational but still hurtful comments to me … try to remember what you told me then. The woman was not only a bitch, but a lunatic (and not the good kind, like you are). You’re gorgeous inside and out, and for pete’s sake, don’t be hard on yourself for being discombobulated by it - I think it’s the rare person, man or woman, who doesn’t have body image issues, and that kind of comment was designed to dig them out of you.

So go sick mujer on her.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Britomart said...

Thanks both of you, so much. I definitely need to hear such things from people I respect & adore.

I'm still more sad than I feel I should be, but will have this all in perspective soon. Really.

And, diane, I'm halfway through the meme, so keep an eye out. I'm sure I'll have it up tonight.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Meldraw said...

Brit, before I go on, I have to say: I am so sorry you had to be the victim of such a singular act of viciousness. I am wrapping you in the biggest, warmest, wrappiest of all virtual hugs right now.

I can't even begin to tell you how angry I became as I read this post. That horrible woman's comment was so base, so wrong, so childlike, so vicious, and so absolutely uncalled for...ugh. I have to stop now. That comment is not worth the rage it elicits.

And it totally killed my joy at finding a new Britopost. Dammit.

You are so, so awesome, Brit. Plese don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous blue lucia said...

First of all, let me just take a moment to beat that moronic woman to death with a spoon. What a bitch.

::long pause, dull thwacky sounds in the distance::

With that taken care of, on to the really important business:

That, in case you missed it, was a great big hug -- the real-life edition of which you will soon be subjected to. mujer and deekay and Mel have all said it way better than I could, so just imagine me cheering wildly at their wise commentary.

I'll add only that I have had sort of a similar journey with body issues. You should see my wedding photos -- I was slender and lovely, and absolutely convinced that I needed to lose weight. Looking back on that, I conclude that most of us are never really free from body-image issues. So it's okay to worry about it once in awhile, and it's okay to not be completely at peace with your weight. You're not a loser for letting her hurt you, for not having perfect self-acceptance. Just so long as, at the end of the day, you get some perspective back and know yourself to be loved and lovable! (otherwise I'll have to come beat *you* with a spoon, beeeyatch!)

3:42 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Good freaking heavens, what a nasty, ugly bitch. If it makes you feel any better, I'm guessing she was the type that thinks very little of herself and takes it out on others to bring them down to her level. Please take Earl Hickey's approach that karma will come around again to bite this woman (hard) on the ass.

From what I know of you in the Hizzy, Britomart, you're beyond lovely. Me and my enormous thighs understand body image problems, and I feel your pain. But this particular problem was *definitely* with her, and not you.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Elen said...

Brit!! I would hug you, but I'm too busy getting this hamster in an envelope to send to that horrible, horrible woman. What a bitch. There, the hamster is inserted and the envelope sealed, so here is your hug!


I second everything the other peeps said. You are an amazing person. Even though I've never met you, I can tell. It shines through everything you say.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous MisaGoddess said...

Aw, poor Brit! It read infinitely worse in print then when you told me about it. Again, I say you should have put a hurting on that beeyotch. You are a marvel of restraint. I would have been screeching like a banshee at her. She must be pretty miserable about herself to lash out at a perfect (and lovely) stranger like that.

I join mujer in her assault (and her praises for you). One crochet hook to the eye for that wench!

I hope you don't give her any more thought than she deserves. Which is zilch.

*hugs Brit hard* My dear nemesis!

1:46 PM  
Anonymous valeriel said...

I cannot beleive this happened to you! I CANNOT beleive someone said this to you! {{{HUGS}}}

How awful life must be for that woman! What a miserable, miserable existance she must have. She must have noticed you previously, walking with a confident air and a radiant smile, and had to wipe the smile from your face to make her feel better about her crap.

Screw her. You are the saint of chastity, the glorious Britomart, whose intellect, wit, curly hair and superior knowledge of the internet rules the galaxy.

Or in other words: nyaah, nyaah, nyaah.

7:51 PM  
Blogger bibliosylph said...

I'm sort of incredulous, thinking about the sadness of an individual who thoughtlessly speaks without even stopping to consult motivation. What an awful way to go through life, just randomly flinging ugliness every time a piece of hair blows in her face. Let's consider this terrible experience a reminder to spread beauty and positive energy with our words instead of misery and pain.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Examorata said...

So, look, I got a Blogger login JUST SO I COULD REITERATE what a venomous, wronghearted bitch that woman was. I hadn't even checked your blog in weeks since it had laid (lain? whatever) dormant so long. And then I hear this story again and it STILL enrages me.

Punch her in the teeth, I say.

10:06 AM  

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