Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wearing My Tie-Dyed Sneakers

“You’ve got to make your own kind of music, sing your own special song, make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along…”

                I have never been skinny. I will never be skinny. I have lost some weight, and will lose more, but I am not built to be skinny.  I am not just plump or chubby. I am, in fact, fat. There, I said it. Everyone knows it. It’s not as though it’s something a person can hide. I was chubby when I was in elementary school, plump in middle school, and fairly close to an ordinary size by high school. I wore a size twelve, which is hardly obese, but a lot of people who knew I was sensitive about it had a lot of fun with it anyhow. When I look at my high school pictures, I realize that I was not a “Rotunda”, a “Moo-Moo” or any other of the myriad names my peers came up with. I was short, a wee bit chunky, and cute. Not ugly. Maybe even almost pretty. When I wasn’t trying desperately to fit in by imitating the clothing and hairstyles of others, I had a great style that was all my own.

                I put on a lot of weight after my dad died, when I was twenty-one. Then I developed some health issues in addition to the female problems I already had. The same medical problems that made me unable to have children played havoc, over the years, with my weight, my blood pressure, my blood sugar, my thyroid…you name it .Losing weight has been an ongoing struggle. Most of the time I don’t worry about it. I exercise as much as I am able, I don’t eat a whole lot due to diabetes medication, and everything is controlled quite well. My heart is astonishingly healthy, my cholesterol perfectly normal. I wear ugly diabetic shoes to work because I have to in order to function. Sometimes I have to walk with a cane because of arthritis and neuropathy. So it goes…and so what??

                Well, here’s what. Some people, in order to make themselves feel better about their own sad, pathetic lives, think it great sport to make fun of those of us who are fat. These same people, some of them, would never dream of making fun of someone who was of a different race or color or religion, or had some physical or mental challenge, or some facial deformity. Sadly, it is still politically correct to bash obese people, and our society seems to worship those who are thin. We equate skinny with pretty, and pretty with good. However, I have known skinny people who absolutely hated their body shape, too, and short people who dreamed of being tall, and tall people who wanted nothing more than to shrink by at least a foot. That’s because there are many people who live to put other people down, and nothing is sacred. I have heard every fat joke there is, but I have also heard plenty of racist jokes (still, in our enlightened age?? Oh, yes.) I have heard kids, and even adults, laugh at folks with speech impediments or “funny” accents, folks with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, you name it.  So much hate. So much cruelty. So much judgment.

                Why does this happen? I have no idea, but we all do it. We do it when we think people don’t know, but the truth is that they always know. Even if things are not said directly to them or in front of them, THEY KNOW.  And it shouldn’t matter, anyway, because it’s still mean. I know that people, even students at my school, make fun of me behind my back, and it hurts. It’s not everybody; it’s not even a majority.  When I go into a store or a restaurant or a movie theatre, it’s not as if there are hundreds of folks staring and pointing and laughing. It would be conceited on my part to think they were, as most are far too busy with their own lives and worries to even notice. But every now and then…I hear it. The rude comment, the snicker, the whisper.  Then my defense mechanisms kick in, and I become angry, and sad, and I think things I shouldn’t. I tell myself that I would rather be fat than stupid. But a part of me has always wondered what it would be like, just for a day, to be a stunningly gorgeous, thin, totally shallow and vacuous person. And there I go…because there are plenty of thin, gorgeous, brilliant and compassionate people, and there are mean, nasty fat people, and all kinds of everybody. 

                I used to like to wear only dark, boring colors, thinking that fat people shouldn’t wear pretty things. Bright colors probably do call more attention to my size, but I LIKE them. I like my new tie-dyed sneakers that I got for my upcoming birthday. I like funny T-shirts, and my sock monkey hat, and my green scarf with peace signs in all colors all over it. I like big, comfy, muu-muu style dresses and moccasins and things that look like they shouldn’t go together at all. I like pink and purple nail polish, and braiding my hair, and then letting it down without brushing it so that it falls down in crimps and curls. I like big, clunky jewelry, and cute hair accessories, and my socks that say I LOVE LIFE, and anything denim.  I will be forty-six years old in four and a half days and I am only just becoming comfortable with who I am.

                I used to think there was something wrong with me because it was so hard to find people who liked the books and movies and music that I liked or thought the things I did. It’s still hard. Not many people get me, except my husband and my kids and my sister and a handful of friends and a few of my students. It’s okay, though. Even those who don’t really get me seem to like me.  My principal thinks I’m a nerd, and a bit weird, but I believe he also knows that I’m a good teacher and that I love God, so it doesn’t matter very much. My mother has never understood a word I said but she loves me anyway. A lot of people find me funny and interesting ,and all of the things that make me wonder if I am even sane made my husband fall in love with me.  I am coming to realize the truth of Scripture-that we are all one body, and we should embrace our differences. Unity does not mean sameness. There is a place for everybody in God’s kingdom, and GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART.

                Still, if I could have one wish, it would be for people to look at one another through the eyes of  love. There is nothing wrong with the way anyone looks, but there is much wrong with the way we see. My daughters should not have to feel ashamed of their bodies to the point where they want to hide in their sweatshirts when it is 80 degrees, just because someone at school called them a name. My son should not have to put up with people making fun of his complexion, or the way he talks. They should not have to be hurt that way, not in their Christian school especially, but not really anywhere.  The world is an imperfect place, though. I have been wounded, too, and it sometimes makes me bitter. I try to have compassion for everyone, and to love them like Jesus. After all, He was mocked and scorned and humiliated. Knowing that helps a lot. He feels what we feel.  I have to pray often, and swallow the anger, and get up again with determination to love the haters. It’s easy enough for me to love the outcasts and misfits, honestly.  I am one of them. My difficulty comes in trying to love those who seem to have it all.

                God loves each one of us and breathed life into us, and if He had wanted us to be alike, He would have created us that way. I will never be skinny. We are born with a basic body type and design, and mine is shorter and wider than average-but then, who decides what is average? I want to be thinner, for the sake of wanting to live a long life and be healthier, but I will never be able to shop anywhere other than the plus-size department. I figure the best I can hope for is to get down from a 4x to a 2x, and is that really so bad?  I also would not be athletically inclined even if I was a size two. I have never been able to get the stupid volleyball over the stupid net, and I once nearly concussed myself with a badminton racket. I have fallen off a sailboat and been run over in a basketball game. Sports aren’t my thing. What of it? I have other gifts. For exercise, I swim at the Y. The water is nice, gravity being my nemesis and all.

                This is me. Take it or leave it. I have things about my character that I want to improve. I always want to strive to be a better person-kinder, wiser, more loving, stronger,more joyful.  God’s still working on my character and those things that aren’t so good or kind or wise. However, my basic personality, like my basic body shape, was made by Him and I think it’s pretty okay. Quirky, perhaps, or eccentric, or downright strange at times, but basically okay. Maybe even fun. Maybe I’m someone worth getting to know better, if you are willing to look past the extra poundage and throw away whatever assumptions you have about why I look like this. God made me, therefore I am beautiful my way-and His. Tie-dyed sneakers and all.

“Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be.”


  1. you are invited to follow my blog

  2. I write and maintain a blog which I have entitled “accordingtothebook” and I’d like to invite you to follow it.

  3. Chris, you are a true jewel, a beauty both inside and out!! I am blessed to know you.