My Journey to Being the Center of All Attention.
Water. Two liters a day. Half packets of Crystal Light. Singular squirts of Mio. Whatever helps you get the two liters down. Coffee, only black. Only vodka water when you go out. One apple; an apple a day will, in fact, keep the doctor away.
Until Grade Twelve, being the fat girl was all that I knew.
While my friends were arranging dates and sharing clothing, I spent days attempting to find a shirt that didn’t cling to the dips and rolls present on my back. Constantly, I tugged and pulled the fabric from the front, only for it to pull tighter behind me. Sighs, tears and years of being uncomfortable followed suit.
Jeans whose zippers did not do up, clothing stores branded where only old ladies shop being the only places that carried my size, and fingernails digging into the skin of my stomach, pinching, bruising and tugging as though if I pulled hard enough, pounds would fall off. In my mind, it felt like if I pulled and pulled and pulled, somehow a perfect version of myself would be revealed and I would be okay.
I would be okay.
When the weight began to lower, people began to pay attention. It was made apparent as soon as stares of admiration, awe, lust, and wonder began to linger, that the treatment towards me would change. Normally, having eyes scan over my body, over the very thing that kept me trapped as an eternal prisoner in its confines, would have made me uncomfortable. But no longer.
No longer was I labeled the calorie-infused, roll-bearing, soft drink that skinny girls would never even consider ordering. Rather, I was a Diet Coke, bubbly and full of conversation.
I finally was the center of all attention, whether it be for bad or good. I could take photos without being embarrassed. The Instagram photo that bore the most likes on my feed was a comparison between the old and new me.
The old me. This is a term that I fell in love with. The changes had allowed me to do as I wished and be with whom I wanted. People didn’t have to go out of their way to convince others to talk to me, to make me feel like, despite what I already knew, I was desirable.
I made a promise to myself that my weight loss would not encourage me to seek acceptance and attention from the boys in my small town who had never once looked in my direction until every vertebra of my spine could be counted even through the fabric of my shirt as I sat in a chair. But, after years of being surrounded by the pretty girls and suddenly being thrust into their circle, it was all that I craved.
Soon, the highs that I felt when the numbers on the scale decreased and knowing that someone’s gaze was following me became one and the same. Nutrition facts on food packages became so familiar that I had the ability to recite them. They were the key to running my fingers over the collarbones that protruded from my skin each morning in hopes that I finally weighed less than my bones.
In my mind, the American Dream was no more than being a skeletal version of myself while hunching over a porcelain bowl with my heart in my hands.
Suddenly, all eyes on me became just a game.
How many stares could I acquire and how many phone numbers could I add to my contacts list by the end of a night out? How many people could I bring home to allow an exploration of my deconstructed and reinvented self?
After all, the journey was for me. Right? That was what I was told endlessly.
Flurries of “You look so good,” “I am so glad that you made the decision to get healthy,” and “Do you want to go out with me?” were dialogues that had previously been foreign, but newly occupied the entirety of my social interactions.
I had gone from a ghost, simply navigating through life unnoticed for fear of others having to be seen with me, to a staple of success. I was finally someone that everyone wanted to be.
Being able to see each of my ribs as easily as the keys of a piano, the ivory hidden behind the pale shield that previously had been so viciously criticized by others was all that I needed to breeze through the final stretch of my high school years. That was all. The only question that I asked myself was why I hadn’t done it before.
I was no longer a person when I walked across the stage at graduation. I was a machine that had been conditioned to attain whatever standard society deemed fit for that day.
Thick. Curvy. Victoria’s Secret. Fenty.
Those trends became just words again. I didn’t want to be them. I wanted to be the girl whose clothes are always baggy, who got sick at the thought of ordering an extra small shirt because it could be smaller, and who believed that a Size Zero was far from good enough.
I fed into the belief that the numbers on the scale and that were embroidered into the jeans that graced my hips were the complete dictator of my worth. I had wanted to be the success story that was worthy of the compliments that I had been receiving. I came to the realization, though, that success wasn’t my goal anymore. I wanted to be a horror story.
The problem was that, instead of the relief and rest that I desired upon being thin, I was being rewarded with fainting in class, constant streams of questions, getting drunk with one shot, and a constant calculator ticking in my mind when I so much as breathed near a freshly-baked loaf of bread.
How many calories were in a piece of gum? How many calories were in one piece of lettuce? How many cups of water could I drink in one day to finally feel full? I understood that my ultimate goal weight would continue to leap backwards, as though it was never stagnant in the first place.
150. 140. 130. 120. 110.
In this moment, I am simply a fragment of the ghost that I left behind, one that is only content with a scale reading of less than zero.
I have come to realize that being the fat girl is truly all that I know.
Bret Crowle is a fourth-year university student at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. She is majoring in public relations and minoring in creative writing and writes fiction and creative nonfiction pieces, besides having dipped her toes into the realm of screenwriting.