Before Christmas, a box came in the mail with no return address. My wife said, “This could be anthrax.” I thought: Nah, anthrax isn’t trending, and opened the box. It was baklava. Right away, I knew the real poison—sugar.
I shouldn’t have eaten the baklava. I’d already had a piece of birthday cake and then one more sliver. Then I had to even the cake out with a knife.
Lately, I ideate about food all day long, the sweeter the better, but then potato chips, Kettle Brand Backyard Barbeque, which never interested me before, are like Sirens.
For 30 years, I ate whatever and as much as I wanted. I trusted my body to regulate itself and it did. Then I turned 52 and I lost my gauge.
Losing My Gauge
Last week, I lifted my shirt to show my physical therapist my belly. I said, “I’ve been working out this muscle too hard.”
He said, “Quarantine.”
I didn’t know I was fat before the newspaper said I was.
I’ve gained eight pounds, so far, but not because I’m cooped up all day in quarantine. I bike to physical therapy. I jump rope indoors. I do yoga classes via Facebook Live.
At physical therapy, pads and tampons are lined up in a display box in the bathroom, free for the taking. When I saw that, I thought: How cool! Then I remembered I haven’t gotten my period in months. I may never need tampons again.
I told my physical therapist my belly was caused by menopause and baklava.
Fatphobia is Real
I’m going to a physical therapist for arthritis in the hip. I’m an ex-runner and want to get back to it, so I went to a sports medicine doctor. I got the MRI and was diagnosed with arthritis, which according to the doctor means I’ve gotten older. He and my therapist believe that if I do the exercises everyday—twenty leg-lifts and twenty clams, three times on each side—I can heal.
Neither of them said anything about the eight pounds, but I wonder if the weight is putting too much stress on my hip. I wish I could say that if it wasn’t for my hip pain, I wouldn’t care about the weight.
I’m sorry to even mention weight. I know it’s just eight pounds and just weight. I’m a feminist lesbian. I love women and women’s bodies and know women are beautiful and sexy no matter our size. I know what I’m feeling is fatphobia. I don’t like myself for it, but I’m scared.
Who You Calling “Dough Girl?”
When I was 16, I was the fastest two-miler in Miami-Dade County. One Saturday morning, after I’d won a county cross-country meet, my parents came into my room. It was weird that both my parents were there, waking me up. My mom said, “Do you want the good news or the bad?”
I asked for the good.
She held up The Miami Herald and said I was in the newspaper. I felt proud. I felt famous.
I asked for the bad.
My mom opened to the sports section and read the headline, “Pillsbury Rolls to Title.”
My coach nicknamed me Pillsbury after the Pillsbury Dough Boy because I was a solid, strong kid, not the typical lanky runner.
The story went on, “Andrea is short and pudgy, but she runs like a tiger.”
Condolences and Baklava
“Short and pudgy” are simple descriptions. But I think it goes without saying that if a 16-year-old, girl growing up in the United States read in the newspaper that she was pudgy, she would take it as an insult. Friends of my parents called throughout the day to offer their condolences. “We read the paper. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t know I was fat before the newspaper said I was. Before the article, I ate like a regular suburban kid growing up in the 80s: three square meals and dessert. My mom didn’t restrict sugar, so if I felt like it, I ate a donut when I came home from school. I ate one donut, because it wasn’t a big deal.
But after the article, for years after, I thought I was fat. I felt bulky and unfeminine. I had trouble getting dressed for school. After several outfit changes, I’d settle on jeans and a T-shirt or a baggy sweatshirt. I dieted. But dieting always led to feeling deprived, which led to more than one donut or birthday cake or baklava. As if the newspaper article were a prophesy, I gained weight. By the end of high school, I was 5’4” and weighed 137 pounds.
Wonder Woman Vs. Pillsbury
Then at 23, I kissed a woman for the first time and like Diana Prince in the old TV show, I spun around and turned into Wonder Woman. I didn’t change my eating habits, consciously, but I felt right in my body. I felt sexy. I stopped worrying about what I ate. I stopped caring. I trusted my body and lost eight pounds. For the next 30 years, I weighed 129 and ate as much baklava as I wanted.
It’s been 36 years since that Saturday morning newspaper article. Now, it’s as if menopause spun me the other way and I’m back to 137. When I get dressed for a run, my underwear feels too tight. The waistline of my shorts cinches my belly, which jiggles as I go. I feel bulky and unfeminine—not sexy. I’ve lost trust in my body.
I’m Pillsbury again and I don’t like it. I wish I didn’t care, but I do.