[a weight loss story]
*kathrynoh at nemesis dot com dot au*
Reading back over what I've written, I realise that I may have given the wrong impression. While part of me, as a child (and even now), was a sensitive girl who loved to retreat from the world into a place filled with dreams and stories preferring the company of her own imagination, there was another part of me that was equally as strong and probably more visible to those around me.
This other part was strong and stubborn and rebellious. I never had any great desire to act out or make trouble for the sake of trouble but, once I got an idea into my head, I was immoveable.
For example, when I was in grade 4 our class spent one afternoon a week in the library with the librarian reading us a story book. A story book with pictures. Usually about cute, cuddly animals. I hated it. Hated it with a passion. It was so far below me. By grade four, I was reading at an almost adult level. So one day, I decided I just wouldn't do it. I just refused. Sat in my chair and wouldn't move. Nothing could make me go to story time. The teachers tried to threaten and cajole and bribe me. I ignored them. "I'm not going," was all I said, over and over again. In the end, they realized the only way to get me to the library was to pick me up and physically force me. That's the secret advantage of being a fat kid. People think twice about that shit. Well, maybe not. Maybe it was because teachers tend to be wary about that physical stuff.
Not only did I win, but I learned that I could win. That I could just refuse. That's a powerful and sometimes dangerous thing for a kid to learn. Not that I did it often but when my sense of justice was provoked, I could stick my heels in.
That complete sense of my own rightness was incredibly strong in me. When you combine that with a huge stubborn streak, it is hard for other people to deal with in a child. Trust me, I'm not just speaking from the experience of my own childhood. After my son was born, I got to experience both sides of that fence.
The worst thing about this, for me as a child was when I clashed with my mum. My mum, god where do I even start there. If you've seen or read The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, you might start to get some idea. The mother in that, I can't remember the character's name, was a lot like my mum. Except my mum didn't have the cool sisterhood or the other fun stuff. She just had her insane, chain-smoking, gossip-mongering, motor-mouth friend A.
It wasn't that she was a monster or anything like. Mostly she was good fun. My mum loved to drive. She was never happier than when she was in the car belting out a string of country and western songs. We'd go on crazy, wacky adventures that made no sense.
She'd take on some new project, whether it was making macramé pot holders or hobbytex (remember that?) or baking Christmas biscuits and she'd throw herself into 110%. It would dominate our lives for weeks. We'd have the stove running almost 24 hours a day getting biscuits baked or the house in disarray while she redecorated. Then she'd be over it. Almost instantaneously. Then it would be back to smoking and drinking coffee and talk, talk, talk. Until the next thing came along. And, to be honest, she was damn good at most things she took on.
She'd also do things that no responsible parent would condone but were damn fun. Like taking the day off school to the nearest big town and spend the day shopping. Or cooking up feasts for us at 1 o'clock in the morning.
But then there were times when she just lost it. She'd strike out in this blind rage against me and my sister. We never knew what would trigger it. One day she'd be laughing about how messy our room was, the next day it would be enough to send her over the edge. Or she'd say it was fine for us to go on a bike ride then go back to her coffee and gossiping. When we'd get home, she'd scream at us because she'd never said we could.
My sister's instinct was for survival. She'd cower and cry and Mum would leave her alone. Not me. I was in the right so I'd stand and fight. No matter what. Even though I knew I'd get a beating and god knows what else. It was as though I didn't have it in me to back down, no matter what the consequences.
Afterwards, she'd tell everyone about the incident. Everyone that came to visit would hear the story about how bad I was and how she'd had to punish me. She'd make a joke of it. And I'd retreat to my room.
High school. High school's tough. I mean, compared to some people, my high school years weren't so bad. It wasn't like my first serious boyfriend was a vampire who lost his soul the first time we had sex and then tried to kill me only to regain his soul, necessitating me having to kill him in order to save the world. Nothing like that. And, man, I have to stop watching so much Buffy.
My first year of high school was awful. Just awful. I mean, it is for most people. Just going from your old school where you were one of the big kids, where you knew your place and that place suited you well to somewhere that shakes that all up is hard. You are groping around, trying to find your place. Suddenly I wasn't the smartest or the tallest or the most outspoken. The only thing I was, was the fattest.
I had four boys in my class who decided straight off I'd be their target. They thought they were cool. They thought they were a gang. They thought they were the sweathogs. So they wanted to intimidate everyone. And I of course, didn't back down. So they tried harder. They threatened to beat me up after school. Our classrooms were on one side of the school oval and we had to talk across the oval to get to the school bus to go home. They'd sidle up to me between classes, in front of an audience of their hangers-on, and tell me they'd be waiting for on the oval after school.
This went on for most of the year but after the first few weeks, I realised that they weren't ever going to carry out this threat.
Then they found another way to get at me. I had a cousin at the school, a few years older than me. He was a big guy. Really big. Not just overweight but a real slob. He wore jeans that hung down revealing a huge expanse of butt crack and never bathed or looked after himself. I think he was a bit simple too. So these boys decided it would be really funny to call me by his name. I hated it but it caught on until everyone in our class did the same. Well everyone except my few friends.
Outside of school, one of the most life changing events of my life happened. One of the best and worst things of my life, wrapped up in a bundle of red-headed screaming baby. My sister was born. I'd wanted a baby sister for ages but I didn't think I'd really get one. I mean it was like asking for pony. I thought I wanted a pony but if I'd got one, I wouldn't have known what to do with it. Unfortunately, you can't even send a baby to the knacker's yard.
When I'd first moved back to Tasmania, we'd been staying with my Nan on her farm before she sold it. She'd told us that her dog had had puppies in the barn but they'd all died. We'd gone down to the barn to find the dog and hidden down between the hay bales was a little puppy, very much alive. I remember carrying it back to the house, yelling "Surprise, surprise," at the wonder of it. I don't think my mum and nan were quite as pleased but the puppy was mine. I'd saved it's life and I called it Surprise after the surprise he'd given me. Prizey, for short.
I loved that dog. I loved that dog so much. He was my best friend for many years. By the time my sister was born, he was a much battle-scared little dog. He'd lost an eye and a leg. That didn't matter to me though. He'd curl up on my lap while I was reading or run along beside my bike. During the night, he'd curl up at the end of my bed and keep me safe.
As a result of those injuries though, he'd become very spoilt. And when my sister was born that spoiling stopped. Prizey didn't like that. So maybe he snapped at her a few times. He didn't mean any harm by it. He was just being friendly like. But my mum didn't think so.
One day I came home from school and my dog was gone. I looked for him everywhere. At first Mum wouldn't tell me what happened, then she 'fessed up. She'd had him put down because she was scared he'd attack the baby.
"You didn't care about him anyway," she told me. Bullshit. I loved that dog. I couldn't believe that when it came to a choice between my dog and her baby, she'd never even considered the other alternative. Twenty seven years later, I look at my sister sometimes and wonder if my mum made the right decision.
Back at school, things were getting worse. One of the gang of four had gone too far and been moved into another class to split them up. His friends wanted him back. So the teacher took a vote on it. He could come back if everyone voted yes. Everyone voted yes except me and my friend. In the end, even the teacher broke down and tried to get us to change our vote. They let him back in the end but we had lost any popularity we had.
Things weren't always so good with my best friend either. My friend, I'll call her Jay for the sake of simplicity, and I were inseparable at times, the absolute best of friends. It was us against the world and we didn't care what anyone else thought. We knew we were destined for glamour and excitement and great things while the rest of our class were destined for two kids, a husband and a mortgage before they turned twenty.
But then it would all fall to pieces. See Jay had another friend, I'll call her Pee for the sake of simplicity. Just when things were going fine, I'd be dumped and Pee would be the new best friend. Or if we fought, she'd threaten to dump me as a friend and hang out with Pee instead. Pretty shitty stuff but not that abnormal for high school girls. Still it didn't feel that way at the time. When your friend doesn't want to hang out for the afternoon, at thirteen your whole world crumbles.
That was bad enough in itself but then I'd go home and my mum would start questioning me about stuff. She had this unholy knack of zeroing in your insecurities and making them real. If I called Jay to see if she wanted to sleep over or hang out and she said she had a family thing on or something. But I'd tell Mum and she'd tell me that Jay had no family thing. She wanted to hang out with Pee instead. That she was just using me when Pee wasn't around. If Jay said she could come over then it wouldn't be because she wanted to hang out with me but because we had a new TV or a she wanted to use our bikes or because mum was taking us to the movies.
It makes me mad now to think about it because Jay and I were good friends. Our friendship was strong. I remember sitting on the verandah of her house in the summer holidays, painting and laughing. I remember the sunlight dappled through the big trees in her yard and the smell of the oil paints and how our eyes were always filled with the dreams of things we'd one day do. Then we'd go inside and hang shit on her brother for watching Monkey because Monkey was stupid and didn't make sense. So we'd kick him out of the lounge room and switch the channel to watch some black and white movie with swashbuckling pirates.
At home, I never talked about dreams or plans or the things I wanted. No matter if it was to run for school council or enter a competition or come a fashion designer –those things weren't for people like me. They were for kids who were prettier, smarter, from better families. They were for kids who were thin.
If I wrote things down, my mum would find them no matter where I hid them. She'd read them back to me and question me. Why do you say that? What does that mean? She found my journal when I was about thirteen and read it. Not my stupid diary with the very pickable lock that was filled with stuff like Did nothing today Had steak for dinner. She found my real journal, the one with the outpourings of my heart. The journal that was written on bits of paper, folded up into tiny squares and stuffed in hidden nooks. Eventually I stopped writing altogether. It was safe that way. I wrote in my last journal at seventeen. After she found and read that, I didn't write anything that wasn't a uni assignment or a work report or a shopping list for over ten years. I wrote stories in my head but never put them on paper.
So I would draw or paint instead. That felt safer, more encrypted. Safer but not completely safe. Everything I created was held up for public comment – exposed and discussed. Maybe my mum thought she was encouraging me, but it always felt wrong to me. It seems strange to me when I read about people who had their creativity discouraged when they were young because I hated being encouraged. It was something private, something just for me, not a world that I wanted to invite everyone into. I didn't want to show my latest drawings to everyone that came to visit. I didn't want my sister's friends crowding around me, asking what are you drawing? Can you draw me?
I learnt to be secretive, to be guarded and to scrutinise people's motives. I learnt to be angry. And I learnt to binge.
We'd get home from school at 3.30 and mum would be waiting. She always had some errand to run and either my sister or I had to stay at home to look after the baby, while the other one when with her. Every night was a fight to not stay home and babysit. Sometimes I'd win, sometimes my sister would. Winning meant a trip into town with mum, and driving around and visiting people and getting treats for hours. Staying at home, meant looking after a crying baby and trying not to do something wrong. And there was always something wrong. Staying home also meant a full on binge. It would start with a sandwich after school then maybe a few biscuits or a slice of cake. Then the cake would be gone and the biscuits would be gone. Then I'd get the loaf of soft, white bread out and just pull the middle out and ball it up into a lump of doughy stuff and shove that in my mouth. I'd pull stuff out of the cupboards trying to find something, anything to fill me up.
Of course, I'd be in trouble when mum got home for eating. But it didn't matter. If it wasn't that, it would be because I'd put a nappy on wrong or the baby was crying or I hadn't put on the spuds for dinner or I had put on spuds but she hadn't planned on us having spuds.
It was even worse if she left my sister and I at home alone. We'd fight. We'd have huge fights, nasty and bitter and try to destroy each other. I'd end up getting so mad, I'd hit her or throw something at her and then she'd shut up and go away. Until dad got home. Then she'd tell me the whole story – her version of it anyway. And I'd be in trouble, again.
I'd sit in my room and listen to David Bowie and make plans for getting out.
Like most teenage girls, I completely screwed up my metabolism in high school. I'd starve myself all day, maybe having a yoghurt for lunch at the most, then I'd come home for the aforementioned binges. I never ate breakfast, rarely ate lunch but would eat all night from dinner to bedtime. I still played hockey. I even started getting a bit fitter because my sister and I would practice hockey on the nature strip at night.
Over the summer, we'd lay out in the backyard with our feed in our little sister, Lola's, kiddie pool. She'd been turning into a spoilt little pain and her biggest thrill was finding out stuff so she could run and dob to mum about us. So we invented a game for her. We called it Hockey Training. We were going to train her to be a top hockey player, like us (ha ha ha). We'd send her off running laps of the backyard then time her. We'd do this all afternoon, making her run laps around the yard and pretending to time her then telling her she wasn't fast enough and to try harder. That's how we discovered Lola was asthmatic.
In year 10, I got a boyfriend. I think he was gay, thus setting up a pattern for the rest of my life. I bleached my hair blonde and wore stiletto shoes and a pencil skirt and stockings with a seam up the back. Every other girl in town wore adidas Romes and white jeans with a pastel windchetar and matching pastel socks.
My boyfriend would come to visit and my dad would ignore him. My sister would call him names and tease him. We'd sneak off and pash and fool around. I'd go to visit him and we'd watch TV in his parent's bedroom and pash and fool around.
Mostly at school, I stopped being teased about being the fat girl. We had a new fat girl, a fatter fat girl. She had greasy hair and secondhand clothes. She was so ripe for teasing. The crowning glory though for high school teasing was that her name was Glenda. Slender Glenda. I used to hang out with her sometimes. She was a nice girl, sweet and shy. Not bright enough to start at a new school and make her parents enroll her under a fake name. Not assertive enough to demand her parents change her name by deed poll. At least nothing rhymes with Kathryn.
I hung out in the Art room where other kids weren't allowed to go. If other kids came in we kicked them out because they weren't talented enough to spend time in the art room out of class. Okay, I could be a bitch sometimes. I admit it.
Because I lived in the country, my high school only went up to grade 10. After that, you had to move to the Big Smoke to do matriculation. A big adventure. A new life. Scary but exciting.
I finished off year 10. My boyfriend had dropped out of school and got a job. We were having sex but not often. I went to the end of year leaver's dinner then a party and got drunk on Stone's Green Ginger wine. One of the boys who had so often threatened to beat me up in Grade 7 wanted me to look at his dick and got upset because I wouldn't. I got my school mag signed and said goodbye to people I never wanted to see again then spent a summer roasting myself on the beach with baby oil.
Wow. Just did a huge catch up - can't believe I missed 3 posts! If having the flu makes you write this stirringly, then write write write and don't worry about the exercise. You will make squillions then you can spend the rest of your days making out, I mean working out with your Personal Trainer.
P.S. I do hope you feel better soon. Not exercising actually sucks!
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By 9:53 pm, at
Thanks m :)
Kathryn - reading this has been like reading about my own life. You've got a real gift.
By 12:58 pm, at
boobs: 100 cm
waist: 81 cm
hips: 109 cm
thighs: 50 cm
Weekly Goal Lifestyle Changing Challenge-A-Rama
Week 1 - Drink more water
Week 2 - Cut out sugary treats