I avoid groups of women. I don’t “hang out”. I find groups of women rather like a pack of hungry cats eying one another, fearing that the others might be sitting closer to the spot where the food will eventually be delivered. (yes, I noted the food metaphor but it is apt. We are ALL hungry in some way, no?)
My aversion to groups of women may very well have nothing to do with my size, I can’t be objective as I have, with the exception of ages 12 to 14 when I was trapped in my eating disorder, been fat my entire life. Fat is who I am, I don’t really think about it unless someone else brings it up. Which they do.
One summer, a few years ago, a group of us, families who know one another through our school age children, met at the river to enjoy a picnic and swimming. I packed a lunch, my kids loaded the swim rafts and floaties and brightly colored beach towels in the station wagon and my husband and I joined 4 other families for a day of fun in the sun.
I don’t swim. I don’t even own a bathing suit. I have extremely sensitive skin and I burn in a matter of minutes so I bring a huge umbrella and a magazine and fully expect to sit alone while everyone else splashes and tans. No problem.
AS it happens at these gatherings, the dads take off for adventure with the kids and the moms enjoy the freedom of having the children supervised by someone else for a time. All the other moms gathered around my umbrella soaking up the sun outside of my shade. Conversation is friendly and the laughter is easy until…
mom #1 says: “Suzy, you know, nobody here will judge you. You don’t have to cover up”
me: “judge me for what?”
mom#1: “well, for not being the same size as the rest of us.”
me: “you aren’t all the same size”
mom#1: “I’m sorry. You know what I mean”
me: “yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”
Awkward for everyone else. Just another day at the beach for me.
Later, when the guys and kids come back to join the women, we are prepping dinner and it is loud and the air feels clear of mom#1’s stupidity until I hear her talking to mom#2 who seems chagrined to have mom#1 talking about this again and mom#1 says to mom#2: “I feel bad for her, she’s just jealous of our freedom to sit around in bathing suits”. Mom#2 sighs, says nothing, walks away.
Had there not been a happy group assembled, had it just been the girls at that moment, I’d have unleashed on mom#1. Just to educate her. Because clearly my clip response at the beach earlier did nothing to shut her up.
I’m long past jealousy. I have come to terms with my size long before this day at the beach. I do not sneak envious glances at a flat tummied woman wishing to be her or anyone other than who I am. I do however wish that I could change other people’s bias and ignorance and superiority. Less for me than for the young people, not yet comfortable in their flesh who may be damaged by her big mouth.