Lindsay Hunter | Longreads | August 2017 | 12 minutes (3,035 words)
I was a kid, somewhere between age seven and 10, when our neighbor rushed in telling my mom she only weighed 129 pounds. My mom was impressed. “Oh!” the woman said. “But I weighed myself before I pooped!” They both rushed off to my parents’ bathroom, where our beige scale was kept, the one with the numbers that would swing wildly to and fro before your number locked in, staring blandly up at you despite your joy, despite your disgust. I must have weighed myself on that thing a thousand times. There was rarely joy.
Even before that day with our neighbor, I was aware of my body as mostly a disappointment, my soul’s albatross. A sexless lump I had to apologize for. I remember seeing myself in the reflection of our sliding glass doors. My friends and I were running in circles inside a kiddie pool, convinced we could make a deadly whirlpool. In the reflection my friends’ legs were toned, healthy. They wore bikinis and their flat stomachs heaved slightly with laughter. Mostly their laughing just accentuated their abs even more. My friends did gymnastics, cheerleading, softball. My friends did. I saw how my belly stuck out, like a beer gut, something I’d read about in a library book. My thighs jiggled. Playing sports amplified my uselessness; I sweated too much and I couldn’t manage to do anything with grace. I worried a lot about grace, my lack of it. Chicken and the egg: was my form, my essence, preventing me from being active, or were my static days, the Florida heat bleating harshly from pre-dawn to post-dusk, the cause of my worthless body?
I was different from my friends in this way, and it didn’t feel like a harmless difference. I began sucking in my stomach whenever I was in a bathing suit. My friend’s mother complimented me. “You lost weight, I see!” She looked me up and down, approving. I felt like I was glowing. I was in third grade.