Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Hellhole

I'm dreading tonight. After the office closes I'm going up to my grandma's place in the Bronx, and I'm meeting up with all my family there. With my living in Brooklyn, my grandma and uncle in the Bronx, and my parents upstate, the Bronx is by far the most convenient and central place for us to get together for the holidays.

My problems with my weight stem from a childhood of being told that I was overweight. My grandma would harp on me about how I've gained weight. Whenever we saw her, one of her first comments would always be, "You've gained weight", or "You're looking good". More often than not it was the former.

This led to two things. Firstly, I learned to base my image of myself on what my grandmother would say. If she said something nice, I felt good about myself. But if she said something negative, even if I knew that I had been working hard and working out and eating right, my self-confidence would plummet. Second, I came to RELY on her (unwanted) opinions to determine my self-worth and body image.

I remember once, when I was about 9 and my grandpa was in the hospital, we went to visit him. My grandma got on the scale in his room, weighed herself, and said "Oh good! I'm happy with that!". Then she motioned to me, and said "Get on the scale. I want to see how much you weigh". I froze. I was always a heavy kid, but I was always an ACTIVE kid, too. I Irish Step Danced for twelve years. I played softball and soccer. I ran around and played with the kids in my friends neighborhoods. But I was always a big kid. I blame genetics - I got the short end of the stick on everything - height, thunder thighs, weight (overweightness tends to run on both sides of my family), psoriasis, early graying of the hair. But regardless, I've always been an athlete. But my grandma never saw that - all she saw was that I wasn't skinny.

Luckily, in my grandpa's hospital room, my mom stepped in. She was furious at my grandma for trying to get me to get on the scale - a weight obsession is not something that a 9-year old needs to be subjected to. Unfortunately, by that point it was too late.

To this day, whenever I see my grandma I brace myself for a comment about my weight. Only now it's expanded to comments about my hair (too short), my clothes (too masculine), my watches (is that a man's watch? why yes, nana, it is), the neighborhood I live in (too Jewish. Whatever, nanny). I was training for a marathon, running 40 miles a week, and she would comment about my weight (You're running so much. Why aren't you losing weight? Because, nanny, I eat like a horse to get the energy I NEED to run that much. Gross amounts of running DO NOT necessarily equal gross amounts of weight lost).

While I realize that I am 24 years old, completely independent and capable of living and suriving and succeeding on my own, I revert back to an insecure pre-teen whenever I see my grandmother. And even though I know I am never going to live up to her expectations ("Are there any special men in your life?" "No, nana. I'm GAY." My god, I wish I could just tell her. Another entry, another time). Intellectually I know that I should just ignore everything she says, and not let it ruin the self-image I've built for myself. But I can't. I've been worrying about this for the past three days. I went out and bought new clothes yesterday to wear to dinner tonight, so that maybe that'll be one less thing she has to comment about. Even though I know I'll get comments about what I'm wearing from my mother. Suit pants and a dark red button down aren't festive enough, I'm sure. But hey, I'm PMSing and I'm bloated as hell, and I really don't feel like wearing a tight sweater that shows off said bloat.

Next week: How my family PAID me to lose weight on Weight Watchers when I was 13. 4 bucks a pound? Hell yes I'll starve myself!

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