I was a fat baby. It was the thing everyone spoke about whenever they told me about my birth. My mother said that I was the fattest baby she gave birth to, that my siblings were thinner. She spoke about my weight with pride, as though I had won some sort of award for it, as though I was the biggest watermelon in the market.
Except that when I turned five and I was eating a third slice of my birthday cake, there is a photo of my mother holding my hand with a steel grip, a grimace on her face. I don’t remember that memory, but whoever took that photo cemented it in time for me.
I can’t remember exactly when I became aware that the pudge on the front of my stomach wasn’t meant to be there, or that my thighs weren’t meant to touch, or that my fingers weren’t meant to be this fat. I can’t remember when I became aware that my body was no longer my own, that it had become a cage around me, getting smaller and tighter day by day. All I know is that it did, and I feel suffocated in it, trapped inside it.
Food has become something hateful to me now. Something that I cannot have in front of me, because if it’s in front of me, I need to get rid of it, and what easier way than to place it into my mouth, swallow it into the oblivion that is the masses of flesh that hangs from my bones? I swallow, and I swallow, and I swallow. I chew, and I eat, and my body shakes and it moves in places it shouldn’t.
I have seen the look of horror and disgust on other people’s faces when they see me walk down the street. I am no longer that five year old girl who is eating an extra slice of cake. I am no longer that baby who was so fat that everyone thought it was something to be proud of. I am a woman now, a woman who walks on the streets, too large to fit into car seats, too big to pass through doors without turning to her side, too much for society to uphold.
A woman once asked me if I was alright when I was walking up a hill. Rivulets of sweat poured down my back, collecting in my armpits, down the back of my thighs. I could feel it running down me, as though someone had opened a tap over my body. I told her I was, and I did so between gasping breaths, as I tried to force my body to move. And she looked at me with a mixture of pity and sadness, and I wanted to hold her brittle body in my hands, and snap it in two.
People will tell me that I only have myself to blame for this. For what I have done to myself. I look at myself in the mirror, eyes meeting eyes, and I wonder where I have disappeared to. I wonder if there is a zipper at the back of my neck that I can pull, that I can slide out of this fat-suit, and I can step out, thin and beautiful. Then people will look at me and clap, and I will write a book about being trapped in such a body for so long, but I am free now, and that is okay.
Food is my comfort. It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that, and it won’t surprise you to hear that, because I am one of many. One of numerous people who do not fit into society’s box, who spill out of the lines, who are too immense to be kept in. We are the wild beasts that roam your streets, the ones that you look at in horror as you realise how close you are to it.
My jiggling body reminds you of how close you are to a fall, to a descent into what you hate the most.
Sadness is an overwhelming emotion, and food helps to control it. Food helps to swallow it down. Food helps to bury it.
I cannot help but feel lonely trapped in this fat-suit of mine.
I cannot help but feel caged in.
But there are times when I look at myself, and I think I like myself. That the makeup I have applied to my cheeks glints in a way that is beauty. And that the way I walk is beauty. And that the way I live is beauty.
I cannot promise that I am ever going to feel good about the way that I am.
But perhaps I might get there one day.