What Fat Women Want

Wanting to be thin is only part of the story

A Different Kind of Inventory: Part I

Clothes Betray the Woman

I don’t know what brought it on. Was it frustration at my cramped quarters? The weight of history as well as my own weight that settles in my lower back by the end of the day? Avoidance of working on my fourth step for my 12-step program, the inventory of all my resentments and meannesses?

My friend, Peggy, has been interested in selling some things on eBay. I’ve photographed things for her in the past and, during the Christmas rush, we began to talk about selling our lives in the new year. Maybe it was when I climbed up to get the box that holds my dinky Christmas tree that I was forced to look at the shelves around and see that my tiny studio apartment was cleverly arranged to hoard the last twelve (or fifty) years of my life.

There are the books, which I occasionally have to cull in order to add more. There are the tchotchkes, large and small. There was the collection of VHS movies and a VHS player that doesn’t work and a DVD player that works well. There is a massive music collection I had, in fact, found a way to store with minimal fuss.

And then there are the clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. Ranging from 6s to 24s. Once upon a time I was a literary agent in midtown Manhattan and I was thin. Now I walk dogs in Brooklyn and am not thin. And seeping through the months leading up to Christmas I had experienced a deep and weary hopelessness that I would never be thin again, never write anything significant again, never find a proper home.

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“Even if I got down to those sizes again, I’m not that person,” I’d say about the boxes, vacuum-sealed bags, bins and dry cleaning bags that I’d squirreled away ever since I began to gain weight. I would never be a midtown literary agent again. I walk dogs now (a vast improvement). I worry that my ears have healed over and I can’t insert earrings any more. Even for an occasion like Thanksgiving, since my best friends got a white Labrador puppy who considers me her personal jungle gym, my idea of dressing up is a shower and footwear other than sneakers.

And yet I delayed doing Anything About It even while it was I who pushed Peggy about eBay. She has an empty upper floor with no dog hair and direct light. As I brushed past the clothes-that-fit hanging in the entry to my living/bed room, I’d sigh to myself at how tired I was of all this stuff, how I could make some money, think more clearly knowing the whole thing wouldn't cave in on me.

Still -- would it mean I've given up?  Should I give up?  Should I change my expectations of what my body might be at its new best?

Maybe it was the mug I sent my niece for Christmas that was broken in shipping that gave me the brilliant idea of giving my clothes to the women in my family. After all, having once lost 188 pounds is --

I’m tempted to say the biggest accomplishment in my life but when I really stop to think about it, the idea makes me want to eat Draino  --

-- one of the difficult wonderful educational things I’ve done in my life. I celebrated (because I didn’t know what else to do with that body; because I felt so exposed I had to steel myself with labels) by spending a year’s tyition at Yale on clothes, something my family, busy saving for their first houses or raising kids or establishing careers, don’t indulge in. These clothes are my legacy, a chance to share the experience of the whisper of cashmere, the slither of silk, the sternness of alpaca.

Which is why I donated almost all of my VHS movie collection.

Hey, it was a start, right?

And it was safer than what I was about to discover when I really opened up my closets for the first time in years.

Frances Kuffel is the author of Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self.

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