[a weight loss story]
*kathrynoh at nemesis dot com dot au*
I wanted to seek my fortune in the big city but the big city was a scary place and I wasn't sure how to even start...
At the time, my sister was working in the office of the local Catholic school and she had befriended a couple of the new teachers. I think it's pretty common for teachers to be sent to the country on their first jobs. One of the teachers, on hearing my fledgling dreams, had an idea. I'll get in touch with Mum, she said. Maybe you can stay with her a while until you get settled.
Mrs G was a little Polish dumpling, hardly 5 foot tall with grey hair pulled back into a tight bun, always a few wisps coming loose. Her eyes twinkled with mischief like a child's and she laughed with her whole body, slapping her knee. You had to join in, even if you didn't know what she was laughing at.
She had a few things in life that she loved with an overwhelming passion. One of these was fishing. All the fisherman knew her, most were her friends. Another was the Pope.
I was only going to stay with her for a few weeks, but ended up living there all year. It was a cheaper than a share house and far more comfortable. For Mrs G, it was a way to supplement her pension. But mostly, she loved having someone to look after. She was one of those people who almost killed you with her kindness and, with her kids left home, I think she was lonely.
Like a stereotypical European mother, she was constantly imploring me to eat, eat, cooking up delicacies, most of which were deep fried. It was the first time in my life I'd been pushed to eat and it was the first time in my life that I didn't want to eating.
The day I enrolled in Art School, I wanted to run away. It was like turning up to a party uninvited. Everyone else hung out in groups, laughing and talking and having fun. I didn't know anyone. I didn't dress like them, I didn't talk like them. I was a freak.
Just when I felt the most desolate, I looked across and saw a girl that seemed equally as alone and out of place and had a feeling we'd become friends one day.
I thought maybe things would get better once classes started. At least I'd get to know people and make friends. But things just got worse. For me, drawing and painting had always been a retreat. When I found it impossible to express myself verbally, I used art as means of simultaneously hiding yet expressing my emotions (oh yeah, and I kinda used eating as well). What a culture shock to find out that I was expected to talk about my work, and talk and talk and talk - about meanings and emotions and personal motifs. I felt like I had to learn a whole new language. But, even worse, I felt threatened, like I was being pushed to open myself up and, once I opened up, the knives would come out.
I hung out with a couple of girls I'd met on my first day but it wasn't really a friendship, we just had classes together. They were mean and petty but I didn't know anyone else. They both make comments to make me feel like a stupid, gauche country girl (because they were so sophisticated and worldly, living in Hobart).
I also made friends with Tresh, the girl I saw on enrolment. On the first day of printmaking, I met another girl, Nic, when we shared a cigarette break. But they were tentative friendships, reliant on shared classes and chance meetings.
Every second weekend I'd meet up my cousin and get a lift home for the weekend. I left my car at home because I was too scared to drive in the city. The weekends I didn't go home, I'd wander around the city exploring or I'd go fishing with Mrs G.
One day, the Art School was having a fancy dress ball and, like Cinderella, I wanted to go. Trouble was, I had no one to go with. I sent out a few feelers with the people I knew, but didn't get much of a reaction. I wasn't the sort of person to just bowl up to people I didn't know well and suggest an outing. I rang my cousin to see if she wanted to go with me but she was non-committal.
Around that time I ran into an old friend from year 12. I knew he was at art school but hadn't seen him around. Because he was studying art teaching, he'd been working at a school.
Mrs G urged me to ask him to go to the ball with me. But I couldn't. That was opening myself up to rejection and ridicule and all the things I wanted to avoid in life. Mrs G laughed. Why would he do that? Just ask, what's the worst that can happen?
This was a purely platonic thing, but I had a lot of trauma about friendships. I never felt like I could reach out to people or initiate friendships. If someone liked me, they'd offer their friendship to me. Even then, I'd not respond with enthusiasm. I had to play it cool.
A few days later, I ran into J again. I plucked up the nerve to ask him about the ball. I waited for him to mutter some transparent excuse - he was busy or maybe, he'd think about it or he had some rare disease that made it impossible to go. Instead, he thought it was a swell idea and asked me around to his place first for drinks.
I remember that night so well. Dressed as a '20s flapper girl (it was a fancy dress ball). Scared and nervous and excited in the cab, chatting to the driver about painting and the novels of Patrick White until we got to the address. She waited for me to go inside. I knocked on the door and an old woman came out. It was the wrong place. I was shattered; it was all a big joke on me.
The cab driver called me back over. She thought maybe I'd written the address wrong. We found a phone box and I called. No one answered. She told me to call again. Like the fairy godmother in the Cinderella story, she worked her magic. J answered the phone. He'd been waiting for me. I'd written down the wrong street number.
We sat around the kitchen of J's house drinking vodka. He'd lived in Hobart for a year, doing bar work, so he and his housemates had friends drop in all night. No one took much notice when two guys walked in the room. Until they flashed their badges. "Drug squad". It had to be a joke. But nobody laughed. No one slapped them on the back and said, "Hey, mate. Good one."
They took J and his housemates off to search their rooms while the rest of us sat in the kitchen under police guard. I asked the cop if I could go to the loo. Only if I had a full body search first. I crossed my legs.
The search took forever. Even when we offered helpful suggestions for possible hiding places for drugs. I laughed. I crossed my legs some more. Just when I thought my bladder would burst, the search was over. I ran to the toilet.
An experience like that bonds people. J and I became inseparable (some would say insufferable as well). I stopped going home of a weekend with my cousin. Hobart was much more fun. In life, you sometimes have the fortune to meet friends that you just have a magical connection with -around them you are funnier, smarter, cooler. The friendship becomes more than the sum of its parts. J and I had that kind of friendship.
On a certain kind of rainy day, a memory comes back to me so strong from those days. It isn't anything special or amazing or noteworthy. It isn't anything much at all. Just sitting with J in a cafe down a lane in Sandy Bay, watching the rain pelt onto the cobblestones outside, eating cauliflower soup; talking, laughing and feeling invincible.
Contentment like that doesn't last long in life. From puberty, my periods had been irregular, often skipping two or three months. But when those months started to stretch on, I got worried. I went to the doctor. I was pregnant. I had to see a gynecologist or maybe an obstetrician, one of those doctors for womanly things. He told me my pregnancy was too advanced for a termination then threw me out of his office.
I think now, if I'd fussed and cried and yelled or gone to a different doctor, I could have had the pregnancy terminated. I had only just passed into the danger zone. But I didn't. I've never been the kind of person who fusses and cries. But these things happen for a reason. It is weird to even think about having an abortion now - I can talk about in intellectual terms but can't reconcile it with the strapping great MAN who is my son.
On the inside I was screaming. I couldn't have a baby. Not me. I didn't want children. At all. Not ever. And if I did have one it would be years and years away. Not now, not growing inside me. If I had to have it, I'd give it up for adoption. That way it wouldn't be mine, would never be a part of me. I went to J's place and told him the news. I don't want to imply that J was the father, nothing is further from the truth, trust me. But he was a good friend - he listened and he commiserated and he made me laugh.
I told a few people - J and Tresh and Nic. But mostly I wanted to keep it hush hush. I'd get through this pregnancy as quickly as possible then give the baby away and life would be back to normal. I was big enough that I didn't look pregnant anyway.
I went out for my 21st birthday with my friends. Most of them didn't know. We went to Pizza Hut and someone bought a cake. I blew out the candles then stood up to cut it. Nic's boyfriend reminded me not to touch the bottom or I'd have green babies. She nearly had a fit.
One night I was at a party with some friend's of J's. I didn't know them that well and sat quietly in the corner most of the night. Suddenly I felt the baby kick. It was real. It was magic. And there was no one I could tell.
I still lived with Mrs G, but it began to get uncomfortable. I don't know whether she suspected I was pregnant or I felt guilty but things weren't right. I wanted to move out.
Meanwhile my mum and dad had separated. Mum decided that she'd move to Hobart and live with me until after I had the baby. There was no point keeping things quiet any more anyway. After I'd told my mum about the pregnancy, she'd told everyone including my little sister.
I finished the year at art school without much motivation. No matter what happened, I didn't want to go back. I spent the summer going out with my friends and sitting on our front porch, listening to Chisels on my walkman and soaking my feet in a bowl of cold water. The future stretched no further than the next meal.
After Andrew was born, I wasn't sure if I wanted to give him up. It was the biggest decision of my life and there were a million factors to consider. I discussed this with my shrink recently, and I told her all the intellectual and emotional reasoning behind my decision but it was only later I realised the decision was made at level far more primal and basic than that. When he snuggled in my arms, his soft baby skin against my face and the baby smell of him, that's when I made my decision.
It's ironic really because he's never been snuggly or smelt good since.
Wow, I'm really loving reading your story, you tell it so well.
Oh babe, I'm in tears. Thank you for sharing this with us and I think you are an amazing person! I'm glad you kept your son :-)
it is really difficult to say something when i am left totally speechless. It is not just the way you write, it is not just your openess, it is not just your story. It is you that leave me speechless, and it is out of pure admiration too!
I love your honesty, the fact that you can freely admit that your "decision" was not completely your own, that there were factors you did not have any control over and that ultimately, they won out. There's nothing like the smell of a baby and when they snuggle in...ohhh...not for me now though, but one day.
thanks for sharing Hun.
I love your story too, you write so well - I won't be surprised to hear that you've published this one day!!
No doubt you have been told you are a very talented writer before...if not..then YOU ARE! It is especially hard to write about the truth, and ones past and you do both with such 'guts' - I am overwhelmed by it all.
I LOVE reading the history of your life!!!!! You should really consider publishing!! You should be making money out of it (your writing), it's much better then most of the books I have read!!
By 8:48 am, 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