Friday, May 25, 2012
I already thought of myself as brave by then. But I wanted to be braver. I was disappointed with myself at the end of that relationship, not only had I been weak and mean, but the root of all that pain had been fear. Fear of being by myself after a decade of being the other half of a couple for almost 12 years straight, fear of being over 30 and having a mediocre life, of being old and fat and ugly. Getting over being alone was easy. I have lots of people who love me because I love them, and so a few quick months of forcing myself to go out on my own fixed that. The mediocre life? Well, that's a benefit of writing, you learn that mediocrity is dependent on your internal interpretations of your life. This sounds cliche, but if the life of your mind is interesting, then your circumstances will be too. The most standard predictable weekend in the world can give you a good story if you're looking for it. I just had to remind myself of that, and it became true again.
So that left the last part, those three super powerful words - Old, Fat, Ugly. I'm too vain to think I'm ugly, no matter my size, plain truth. I know I'm not beautiful, but I'm nice looking. I'm nice looking enough that it doesn't matter all that much. I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to think of myself as Old. In my head, I've been the same age since 15. I don't want kids or marriage or a house, so my timeline is pretty much up to me to design, hence the going back to school at 32.
But Fat. I've been fat my whole life, since 1st grade. This is my body, my shape, this is what I'm used to working with. It's actually done pretty well for me so far. But the thing I think most people don't realize about the Fat Experience is how much Fear comes naturally along with it. It's not fear of other people, per se. I've been incredibly lucky - nobody has ever fat-bashed me to my face except my mother, and she did it with love, as mothers do. If someone tried to insult me to my face calling me a fat girl, I would hardly even think of it as an insult, because yeah, DUH. It's other constant small fears though - being afraid if something is going to fit, being afraid you are just a bit too big for the roller coaster bar to get down over your chest, being afraid to start dragging all this furniture to the curb cause it'll be too hard, being afraid to work out because I'll hurt so much the next day and not be able to go out, being afraid that when you go out to eat you're going to spill something on your chest because it's just so fucking big something is always spilling, being afraid you're going to look stupid in that photo because you didn't hold your shoulders right or you laughed. Being fat, for me at least, has been a constant challenge to get over myself. No matter how ridiculous my vanity or pride tells me I'm going to look, I have to force myself to do it anyway. This applies to things like karaoke, hooking up with boys, dancing, going to the beach. All things I love very much, and I will never stop doing them, but there is always a moment of fear I have to overcome. Luckily, I'm pretty good at being brave, I just don't want to have to be all the time.
Which brings us to my bike. If you missed it, my car died. I decided to not try buying a new one. Maybe after I move I'll need one, but I'm not even going to think about till I've moved successfully and found a job and started classes. Nope, I'm biking it, or rather I'm trying to. I have a lot of friends who are Bike Kids, they've been relying on it as their primary mode of transportation for years, they all seem super capable and they love it so much. So while it sucks to not be able to go on road trips and explorations this year, I think learning to bike a lot is really important to me right now.
But holy shit is it an embarrassing humiliating humbling experience. First, there's the fact that my carefully crafted outfits, the fashion aesthetic I've spent years building up as a Fat Girl, can no longer apply. Carey tried to argue with me, "of course you can wear dresses and makeup!" she cried. No sweety, maybe you can. But the minute I start biking any kind of distance, my face just pours sweat, so anything but the simplest makeup is out. I have to wear sneakers or sneaker like shoes, because the first time I tried to go biking in Mary Janes I bruised the fuck out of the side of my foot and it still hurts. So half my dresses are out because I would never wear them with sneakers. And my hair, my god. Helmet hair? Covered in sweat helmet hair? All the sweat in my body comes from my face. Basically relying on biking for transportation means I'm going to look like I just got out of the gym all the time. Sequin dresses are not sweat friendly. So there goes half my confidence already.
Then there's how bad I am at it. I am not a graceful biker. I am hunched over desperately trying to balance and not fall around corners. I have to pedal twice as much because I have twice as much weight to push forward, and two times less leg strength. I am crazy skittish in traffic, out of breath and panicked, I'm on a Scare High the whole time. The whole thing sucks, a lot. And it sucks in public. Sitting somewhere and being pretty is easy as a fat girl. Biking on a crowded street where every car already hates you and you are beet red and soaked whenever you arrive somewhere is something else.
So...Bravery. It's needed more than ever. And the best way to gain bravery points is to just hold your breath and do it. I have a whole lifetime of being good at that to back me up, I guess. Tonight, I'm going on my first Critical Mass ride. It's a 6 mile ride with hundreds of people, a good percentage of whom I know. That's 6 miles AFTER I get downtown. I'm going to take the train down, but I have to get to the train station first, and last time I did that I was basically shaking by the time I got THERE, so honestly, I'm terrified. And THEN I have get back home to West Park, AFTER doing this. It will be my longest ride yet, I don't think I've gone more than a mile so far without having to stop. I woke up at like 7am this morning because I was so scared of this. I'm scared of looking like a fool, I'm scared of being the very slowest, and maybe not even being able to complete the ride, and of all the nice people I know who are going to try and be encouraging or ride slowly next to me, which is just even more embarrassing. BUT IT HAS TO BE DONE. It's like the first time I went to the beach with a group of people. Going to the beach in a bathing suit had to be done. Biking has to be done.
So I guess my point is, other skinnier people would be scared of this too. But since I'm used to having to be brave, I know copping out is not an option. I know it can be done if I just get over myself.
I don't know, maybe I'll be in so much pain this summer I won't even care about getting laid.
well I made it to E. 61st and had to quit the pack, just had to go much slower and I didn't want to hold people back. So I had a nice leisurely bike down Cedar and when I passed the factories I smelled the cold musty dusty air and just wanted to crawl into one and fall asleep and turn into a ghost.
Update Update: Total tally of miles for the day, 8.6. The actual ride was more like ten miles, but I'm glad i turned around when I did, cause honestly, I barely made it home to my driveway, I was falling off my bike. And I just took the most amazing cold shower. And I rode for the first time in the dark and the pouring rain tonight. So, I'm not disappointed in myself at all.
Posted by Bridget Callahan at 9:53 AM