Learning that there are people who will accept you wholly, and there are people who will never accept who you ARE regardless, because of how they want you to BE.
Probably one of the most empowering things that has ever happened to me was my time spent in England, not because it made all my weight drop off me, but because of what happened after things started to go terribly wrong.
The “terribly wrong” period started after losing my passport. It had been the first ridiculously snowy winter in the more southernly parts of the UK in a long while, and so, of course, those in the London area just didn’t know what the hell to do. I was in Newcastle, where the weather was just as uncommonly bad, but I would say that the general attitude toward it was not as bad, except when dealing with public transportation.
And maybe it was that way all over. Maybe the average Londoner wasn’t so upset about all the snow, except for the fact that it was messing up their commute.
Anyway, I had been away from home for just a few months. I missed my parents, and wanted to go home for Christmas. The trip wasn’t meant to be long anyway seeing as how I had to be back in January earlier than most all of the other people in my programme (no, that isn’t spelled wrong, it’s spelled in a properly English way… program is spelled wrong, obviously!) because I was the only foreigner in our creative writing cohort that had taken a particular module (ie, class, for my fellow Yankees) that would see me having to come back early to give a presentation.
So even though it was a short trip, I would still have something like two weeks, and I was happy with that. Other friends were able to take a whole month, but whatever. Two weeks in California was two weeks in California… there would be no snow, and it would be warm enough, for my somewhat cold-acclimated body, to walk around in short sleeves just like a crazy Geordie, except without it actually being crazy to do so.
Of course, one of my weeks was entirely eaten up by the trip from hell. There was the whole waiting for an entire day in the Newcastle airport while flight after flight to London was delayed, before they sent me home with tickets for a flight the next day… which was delayed as well. But at least I was finally able to get down to London… just to be delayed and rerouted again, this time through Florida instead of like Boston or wherever it was I had meant to be going in the first place, via a flight that wouldn’t take off until the NEXT day, so I had to stay overnight in a hotel in London before getting on my flight, which, once it landed in Florida, saw me laid over for a few hours, but that was okay, it gave me time to remove two of the three layers I was wearing so I didn’t die in the sweaty Miami heat. I ended up having to buy Crocs. I needed sandals and that was ALL that I could find. Not my finest moment but damn, Crocs are a viable choice for the desperate.
I also had my first pumpkin spice latte in ages. The English don’t do the whole “pumpkin is a dessert item” thing.
So I get on my flight from Miami to Lalalalalalaland, the wonderful city of Los Angeles, and everything seems like it is going fine… except that upon Landing at LAX they tell me my little puddle jumper flight from LAX to Fresno has been cancelled.
Seriously? It would be like a one-hour flight, but it was cancelled due to weather. Completely snowless weather. Weather that was warm and inviting, not like the humidity of Florida. Cancelled.
I’d been patient with airport people for days, and I was suddenly in MY world again, which I guess is why I suddenly felt it was okay to have a tirade. I did, a little, then decided I would rent a car.
Except I couldn’t because I didn’t have enough Merican money in my Merican bank account to pay for both the car and the exorbitant insurance fees they wanted me to pay. So, trapped in LA, alone, I ended up once again getting a hotel room and staying over night.
That whole fiasco took a week. Add to that a week at home before having to go right back, and it is easy to see why I was pretty much brain-dead stupid by the time I got back to Newcastle. And it was that utter, exhaustion-induced brain dead stupidity that caused me to lose my passport.
Which started to see me walk the path of a small nervous breakdown. Turns out, it is easier to deal with old stigma than new stigma. I can shrug off people who give me crap for being fat. But now that I was starting to be treated differently by my friends who acted as if my depression was “drama”, I was a fish out of water.
I saw them drop away one by one, leaving me at the mercy of the non-ex from hell, the only one of my “friends” who stuck by me when I needed REAL support. The only problem with that is by that time I had totally fallen for him… but I guess not seeing me for a few weeks, and then seeing me going crazy once I returned made him completely forget about the fact that he had been flirting with me and acting a bit infatuated. Suddenly he was just my “friend” and when I told him I wanted more, he said hell no. But he still spent an inordinate amount of time with me, held my hand through my passport crisis, let me literally cry on his shoulder when I needed to (imparting kisses on my forehead to make me feel better) and in every way, acted like a boyfriend as opposed to a friend.
I mean every way. I won’t go into details but needless to say, he did things which put a feather in the cap of my nervous breakdown, and afterwards, he grew more and more negative and disgusted in his treatment of me. Suddenly I was a crazy burden, an albatross around his neck, despicable for clinging to him and unreasonable when he started to date another girl, though he’d never given me any indication (though I was supposedly one of his “best friends”, that he was even doing the whole online dating thing).
And if I tried to seek out my other old friends for support, I got lectures as to just how stupid I was for reacting the way I did to the loss of my passport. It’s no big deal, get over it. And how stupid I was for doing what I did with HIM because obviously, he rejected me flat out months before, so actually, he couldn’t possibly be giving me “mixed” signals afterwards, and anything we did together, all the ways in which he was abusing me, trying to control me, and tearing me apart were my fault.
Here I was, supposedly “normal” sized, in HIS opinion, and beautiful… in other words, everything that I was told to be by the people who had told me I had to lose weight to be accepted and loved… and I wasn’t loveable, to HIM, because I was too “fucked up” and I needed to “get over” myself.
Bitter bitter bitter to this very day. I could write a symphony to bitterness. I don’t let it color the way I treat new people, but anyone who wants to dip a toe into my past is going to see that I am not the sweet, lovely person they could have sworn I was.
I’m angry, bitter and disdainful of those who used my depression and heart-break as an excuse to stigmatize me further. Because, hey, I don’t exist to be myself. I exist to be what others WANT me to be, and if I can’t, then I am worth their disgust.
That is at the core of what being a bigot really is. It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, what kind of bigot you are. Bigots seek to dictate to others what they have to be. If you cannot be that, whatever it is, you will be treated as less than… less than them or less than human.
I saw myself being treated as both while at the depths of my depression while I was in the UK.
BUT… now that I have ditched those people who, while I was there, mistreated me, I am no longer concerned that I may have to feign a socially appropriate smile as I feel that each and everyone of them is so strange to me that, were I to meet them on the street, by chance, I would not feel guilty in simply pretending that I don’t know them at all, and that I’m not the person they think I am.
After all, it is true. Those who betray us are those who we truly do not know or we would have seen the betrayal coming. And those who wish us to be who they want us to be, and not who we are, do not know us.
In some ways, I needed to go through this to finally begin fully embracing who I am. I may still feel the programmed shame that others demand I feel toward my fat AND my craziness, but things are different now. (The shame is now especially for my craziness, and that I am on “medication” for it… PILLZ ARE BAD FOR YOU YOU KNOW. >.> At least, according to those who judge those who have mental disorders. We’re okay, just as long as its not something that needs to be medicated. That sort of “medication” will poison our bodies, break our minds, and why do we even need it anyway, we’re fine, we’re obviously just faking it and doctors are using our hypochondriac-based emotional distress to sell us crap). What is different is the knowledge that, to use a new cliche, “haters gotta hate.”
Judgmental people, negative people, bigots and biased people, selfish people, narcissistic people… all these people will find a reason to dislike a certain population of people, simply because they HAVE to to not feel totally and completely miserable with their own lives. Negative people feed off the negativity they are able to awaken in others. Negative people will continue to push negativity on anyone they feel is susceptible, because it causes despair to grow, hope to fade, and shame to gain power. Negative people LOVE despair and shame in others.
Mostly because negative people are really fucked up themselves. HE is totally screwed up, the product of a broken home, an alcoholic mother with abusive boyfriends. He is codependent, and either has to be completely alone, or completely in control of anyone he is with on a one-on-one basis. In groups, he is a cowering sissy, backing away from even those who step up to him to say hello. He is this because, even though I’m sure the woman who is with him now never sees this, she probably sees him as a confident, loveable guy, he will always be partially defined by the fact that he WAS THIS man when we was with me. And because he was this man, he did and said the things he did to me. We are the memories we leave on others. HE is still his man, and always will be, within my head and the head’s of those who know the full story.
Now that I am aware that there will always be strangers who will dislike me just as soon as they realize they cannot control me, change me, or force me into a situation where I serve their interests, it is easier for me to stand up, without shame, fear or despair, against the idea that who and what I am isn’t inherently awesome, and should stay EXACTLY as it is, as long as I am happy.
The only changes we should ever have to make are changes that we want to ourselves, for ourselves, based on happiness and self-fulfillment. Because happiness and self-fulfillment are physical, these changes will never have to be physical. Anyone who says that changing one’s body to find happiness is full of crap. I should know. That is the point of this story. I have concrete life experience to tell me that not being fat didn’t stop people from treating me badly.
People can change their bodies for personal aesthetics, via hair dyes or tattoos, or to improve their physical well being, such as exercising for stamina and energy, or changing ones diet for the same or similar reasons. People can’t change to suit cultural or personal standards, because no matter what those standards are before the change, no change will ever meet them.
So, the greatest thing about meeting shitty people is you appreciate your real and actual self a lot better. Self-love is moving beyond capitulating to negativity from others. Life is too short and you don’t deserve to be unhappy.
HE does. But probably just to me. HE really hates that I became so spiteful after what happened. I really hate that he gave me reason to be.