Dining With Shame.
I look around the restaurant, counting.
Calculating silently in my head the number of how many of the other women in this restaurant are larger than me. The higher the number, the straighter I will stand. The lower the number (oh, dear God, let it not be a zero! I cannot handle a zero today!) and I will shrink into myself, willing the Universe to allow me invisibility.
I prefer to sit near the door of the restaurant, so that my statistics will be consistently accurate. As I sit with my friends, trying to keep up with the conversation, I silently keep track of the comings and goings of the other patrons so that my calculations are kept concrete, defined.
Without the incessant counting, how would I know my own worth? How would I decide which meal I am worthy of consuming today?
I will take my number and measure its weight in my hands until my fingers tremble, and then decide which meal I shall punish myself with.
A salad with no dressing, which I will consume while surreptitiously glancing around me knowing that other restaurant patrons are smirking, secure in the knowledge that surely I must be gorging myself at home with more than just vegetables?
A fat-laden pasta dish, which will be eyed by those passing with a smirk, as they shake their heads at me with the silent reproach that is given to women with no self-control?
I’ll make my choice carefully, berating myself in my head while smiling and heartily discussing the merits of each dish with my dinner mates.
Each time that a friend asks for my opinion on a dish in the menu, I grin and give my review while inside wondering if they are asking me as the token fat friend who must surely have, at one time or another, eaten each and every thing on the menu. I will make my choice, slightly nauseated in worry that I have made the wrong decision.
I will smile widely and be extra polite to the person waiting my table, begging them silently to not smirk at my choice.
When the meal comes, I will lower my eyes as my food is placed before me, for this is the greatest moment of judgment — as my own friends at the table eye their own choices and mine and weigh their decisions against my own. I cannot win this competition.
It was already lost earlier today when I slid into my size 14 jeans while they were sliding into their size 6 designer slacks. And, before me sits my punishment. I will eat the food, which tastes of guilt and shame, and let it slide down my throat. I am hungry. So fucking hungry. But it’s not for the food before me.
It has never, ever been about food. I am searching for something, any goddamned thing, to fill the inner void which has stretched to epic proportions within me.
I know this food before me will not fill the void. For the last 20 years, it has not — not a single time — given me a shred of comfort. Yet, I will eat it.
I just want to consume something in equal measure to the pain and sadness that consumes me daily.
I will eat it with my eyes down at the table and with a look of shame, so that all those around me know that I am secure in the knowledge of my failure.
If I appear too joyful in my consumption, surely someone around me will be moved to remind of the layers of disgusting fat that envelope me, as if I wasn’t aware of this every.damn.minute. Aware that I am unworthy of the space that I take up on this planet.
I will eat my penance and shame myself with the weight in my stomach in the hours to come. After I have left the restaurant, I will be certain that the weight of pain and shame will have filled my empty soul and keep me tethered to the Earth, to be punished again tomorrow.
Amanda Redhead (yes, this is her real name, and no, she does not have red hair) is a Pediatric Nurse, Mama, Writer, Voracious Reader and Professional Hugger. She is passionate about spreading kindness and speaking her truth so that others feel less alone. Her work can be seen on The Manifest Station, Elephant Journal and Simple Reminders, as well as other venues. She blogs at The Zen RN, and reviews books at The Insomniac Bibliophile. She does love people, but she happens to be an introvert and loves to connect on social media while she sits on her couch in her favorite pajama pants. If you want to connect from your own couch, you can find her on Facebook.