I love being fat. I love the way my body moves. I sing little nonsense songs in the kitchen. “I am making eggs!” I announce in a sing-song voice to no one, and no one hears me, except maybe my cats.
I put on Janelle Monáe. I dance along. I am the world’s most awkward dancer; there is nothing smooth, natural, or sultry about the way I move my body, and I have a lot of body to move. The best I can do is compensate with good humor, laughing at my own ridiculousness. I use a spatula as a microphone.
I move, I groove, I feel anything other than ugly. And it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t. I’m supposed to hate myself.
There are nights when I do.
There are nights when I feel so shitty about myself that I can’t eat. So shitty about myself that I can’t move. I am supposed to hate myself, but I don’t, and sometimes I do. Nights where I lie in bed and press my hands against my belly as if, if I pressed hard enough, my stomach would suck itself in and I would have a more traditional kind of beauty.
It’s f*cking hard. It’s hard to try on a dress in a department store and not have the zipper go all the way up. It’s hard to step into a room and feel eyes on you and you know they’re looking because you’re 10 sizes too large. It’s hard to see people laughing and wonder if they’re laughing about you. Radical self-acceptance is hard.
The shame seems to strike at nighttime. I sleep better during the day. I take long naps, expansive like a great desert, in the mid-morning and late afternoon.
If napping is a sin, it is a cardinal one; I am gluttonous and insatiable and I love every second of it. Naps are not about dreaming, though sometimes I dream when I nap; they are more about physical sensation.
I lie by the window in a pool of sunlight, the happiest cat in the world, the touch of my own skin, covered, always, by a silky sheet; I can’t sleep without a blanket. I lie on my side. It is a form of self-love to press my hands against my plump belly or round, full breasts. There is too much of me; I am a cup overfilling. I cannot be contained in any person’s hands. I am soft to the touch like an overripe peach.
Those naps remind me of summertime, though I do this in the winter, too. It reminds me of biting into the red flesh of a strawberry, sweet-tart and juicy and luscious. If a man in a writing workshop described a woman in his novel as “luscious,” I would burst out laughing. But there’s something true about it for us fat girls.
Our thighs are Colosseum columns. In the summertime, we rub them with baby powder or deodorant to keep them from chafing when they rub together under dresses or skirts. We are monuments to our own beauty.
Loving women has made it easier.
It’s harder to love yourself. It’s hard to look at the mirror and love yourself, and sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t. “Fake it ’til you make it,” my therapist says, so I wear sundresses in the spring.
There’s a girl I have a crush on, a poet. She’s beautiful. I assume she’s confident because she acts that way. “I’m not a dress girl,” she says, and I wonder why. I wonder if it’s because she’s butchier than I am or if she just feels more comfortable in the same pair of overalls I see her always wearing.
She could rock a dress if she wanted. She could rock any damn thing she pleased. It’s so easy to see wonder in other people, not so much in yourself. When she says she’s fat, she says it like a put-down, like she’s ashamed of it. I stare at her because it simply never occurred to me.
“I figure everyone will be thin in NYC,” I say to a friend. That all the shops will have only sizes zero to six, that everyone I see will be supermodel gorgeous and skinny as a rail. I am moving to Harlem.
“It’s still America,” she counters.
I will have to walk more. My mom says it is a chance to lose weight. Despite the teensy size of my new apartment, she wants me to bring a box of jeans a size down. She imagines the weight will melt right off me like ice cream off a cone.
I am looking forward to the walking. I want to reach the end of a day in New York and be physically exhausted — proof that I am pushing myself to my very limit. In my mission statement for grad school, I said, “I do not give myself many breaks.”
I imagine myself rising to greet the sun, a fat Harlem dyke establishing a daily routine. I will move every pound of me to the city’s beat. I am something that was meant to be worshipped, like a fertility goddess or a mother.
I sleep naked my first night in the city. There are many changes happening, but this, at least, is the same — the rise and fall of my stomach as I hold her, bulging and fat and mine. This fat, like moss grown on a river rock, is mine; it is a part of me, and I cherish every part of me, even when it’s hard.
The city moves around my new apartment. This move is so big that I almost feel small. I think about wearing a dress tomorrow; I wonder if I need to wear shorts underneath it, to keep my thighs from rubbing together as I walk. I wonder if I will feel awkward if I do, and if the hem of the dress is long enough to cover up the shorts.
I wonder these things, but I don’t hate myself tonight. I don’t. That doesn’t mean I won’t hate myself tomorrow. Sometimes it feels like a battle, and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t want to think of it as a fight. I don’t want to think that I’m fighting not to hate myself.
Because there are times I love being fat, and times when I love the way my body moves. Like tonight: my hand on my stomach, bulging like a mountaintop, I breathe.