What Fat Women Want

Wanting to be thin is only part of the story

Invoking the At-Least Clause

Mistakes were made, but not all by me

The lovely paradox of addiction and depression is that they drain one so terribly that it's about impossible to go seek the help that's plentifully out there. I just took the mother of all showers for the first time nine days, so how likely is it that I'm getting myself to a 12-step meeting this afternoon? I could barely get the dog walked and then there was the onerous job of putting kibble in Daisy’s bowl. I've been in and out of sugar hang-overs, doing things like sleeping five hours in the middle of the day and obsessively working through all eight seasons of House, M.D., for the third time this year. I have transverse myelitis stuck in my head like a bad 80s song and I don’t even know what it is.

I know that behind all these symptoms–sugar, depression, sleep, turning off, agoraphobia–is a lot of anger from the last week, in which I lost almost 1,500 dollars in monthly income. Part of this loss is my fault. The other, larger, loss is the result of someone reneging on a handshake deal I have already invested thousands of dollars in my own time to launch a flying start. I don’t know what to do with anger unless it builds up so much that I blow. Mostly I suppress it. With sugar, depression, hiding.

This is two kinds of anger. One is at myself for being stupid, and the other is at someone else who struck out and hurt me. In too many ways I believe I deserve the hurt. When anger and pain reach intolerable levels and I don't do all the things to keep it in check–proper nutrition, the Rooms, therapy, journaling maybe, getting outside, responding appropriately (and yes, Dr. Freud: Responding naturally came last in the things I consider healthy)–the only person I can lash out at is myself.

And it's fear in those doughnuts as well. I tell myself I can use the time and the freedom to write, but I'm afraid to write, afraid to fail. I tell myself the income will come back, but I don't know and I don’t trust either my client or the future or myself (again with the yes, Dr. Freud: That list came out naturally, with me at the end). And what I really fear is not money or a proposal not selling or not being a good enough writer but that there is some existential truth of unworthiness about myself. So I eat and hide to qualm the fear.

A vicious cycle.

However.

In the little consciousness I allowed myself the other day, an incident occurred that might have given me the courage to write this today.

Daisy and I crossed the street to avoid some sidewalk construction and found ourselves behind a woman walking two notoriously frightened and neurotic springer spaniels. They're gorgeous dogs–black and white–obviously home décor. One used to be muzzled. Daisy loathes them for good reason because they growl and bark ferociously on the street, where they are usually walked by the housekeeper and from their window, which is cater-corner from my building.

Daisy, who can’t keep her mouth shut on any topic, reacted when she saw them which was the germ of frenzy on their part. We were a few stoops from home, couldn’t use the opposite sidewalk and faced heavy traffic. The owner, in an elegant work dress, saw us and stared at me, daring to me to make this my problem. I duly led Daisy between two cars so that the dogs could see each other. Daisy had gotten quiet after one bark and, after 30 seconds, the spaniels settled down as well as we waited for them to get well ahead of us before going back to the sidewalk.

When I did, I saw that their owner was texting. I even muttered, passive-aggressively (a habit I hate in myself), "Great. She's got two psychos and she's texting." A split second later, a man on a razor bike, which is also kind of stupid (except that I sort of want one), whizzed by them, too closely. The woman was too involved to notice and one of the dogs lashed out and bit him.

Daisy and I came to a halt because we couldn't do anything else. The man was cursing and holding his leg and the woman leaned down and smacked the dog in the head, hard. I vented more passive-aggression, muttering: "Good. Scare the dog into even worse behavior." In a few seconds they were all crossing the street, the man limping and rolling up his pant leg, obviously to get insurance straightened out.

If it’s possible for a dog to have Tourette’s, Daisy has it. She barks for the hell of it and I have come to understand that dogs don’t really understand each other’s barking because even her best friends want to lash out at pedestrians, other dogs and random snowmen or turned over trashcans when they’re with her. I keep her on a very short leash when there's heavy pedestrian traffic or other dogs, But I'd never smack her and I certainly wouldn’t use our time together to text or otherwise purposely lose concentration to allow her craziness free reign. We've had scary moments but no blood.

I looked at the scooter the man had abandoned on the sidewalk and I thought, "Well, at least I'm not that big an asshole."

Thinking about this scene, I wonder if I can listen to the small universe of today to acknowledge I understand something of dogs' fear and an irresponsibility I try very hard not to engage in with dogs.

 I'm not all Annie about this–the sun will come out tomorrow and burn my retinas–but I am reaching for the idea that being depressed and hopeless maybe doesn't mean there's no hope. And self-loathing doesn't completely shade my competence. I’m full of shame, anger, hurt, fear...but the woman with her dogs actually courted the emotions I contort myself to avoid feeling.

So today I will try to invoke the at-least clause. At least my rent and bills are paid for today. At least I don’t hit my dog. At least I’m writing and, I hope, not being an asshole in doing so.

 

 

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

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