my mother never delighted
in my round belly or thigh rolls
even as a temporary vestige of babyhood.
She viewed my flesh as a threat
to her potential pride in dressing me up.
How could she ever fully bask
in her role of beautiful young mother
if her child was not the perfect accessory?
In the department store dressing room
she tugged at waistbands and too tight sleeves,
and with a disgusted groan, lamented
“It’s as though NOTHING will fit you.”
After all, what self-respecting woman
clothes her daughter from the chubby department at Sears?
My cereal was always sugar free,
my egg and toast were halved.
My lunchbox filled with celery sticks & dry crackers.
My Dinner policed,
and dessert was a foreign landscape
I was told that I must see food as fuel
because I was not blessed with a frame
or a metabolism that would allow me
Whatever meal was put on the table
had been prepared to please the palate
of my more fortunate table mates,
but for me the array of food
was merely a test of my obedience.
Passing a serving dish to my left or right
…or better yet, without even a glance
was what made mother most proud.
My mantra was to be:
Show your strength through your sacrifice.
“Isn’t one spoonful of potatoes plenty, my dear?”
Her syrupy and rhetorical question was intended
to draw the attention of young and old at the holiday table.
And it elicited their approval of her conscientious parenting,
or their pity for me…
For nearly all the years of my life, food had equaled
more guilt than pleasure
more psychosis than sustenance.
a few years back,
I made my peace with food.
As I discovered
quite by accident
that there was more to life
than lettuces and deprivation,
and that a fork need not be a weapon
of emotional destruction.
When a new love offered me a bite
from his own plate,
and with his own fork.
“Taste this, it’s delicious.”
he said to me.
And I almost looked behind me,
so certain was I that this gesture
could only be extended to someone thin.
So never to me.
That silky and forbidden morsel
crossed my lips,
thrilled my starving palate,
and filled my heart, for the first time
with the idea
that I was actually worthy of sweetness.
I suddenly let go
of the notion that I was nothing more
than what I was willing to do without.
And I learned to love with abandon,
and I extended a serving of that love to myself.
This brand new perspective allowed me
to swallow actual pride.
I could buy groceries with no thought
of who might judge what was in my basket,
and whether I was deserving of the calories found there.
I would never again hide
the brownie mix under the broccoli.
And eating a dessert at a public function
felt like an emancipation proclamation.
I learned to eat to my appetite
and my size did change
in tandem with my newfound freedom.
And My Love did not stop loving me.
And the world did not end.
On my first visit to my mother’s house
following my revelation and rebirth,
she looked me up and down
and shook her head,
clearly grieving this arrival.
The tragic truth of it is that
thinner but miserable me
had always been welcome on her doorstep,
but plump and happy me was an enemy at her gate.
The literal undoing of her life’s work.
She wept that I had
given up on ever being pretty.
I replied that I felt
healthy and beautiful
for the first time in my life.
She shook her head,
and dabbed her eyes,
and said: “You must have lost all pride in yourself.”
And I announced:
I have finally tasted it.”
- Suzy Gaxiola