Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cutting Loose Old Issues (AKA Blog Post of Epic Proportions)

I was thinking about an ex this morning during my 4 mile training walk.  About how I wish I could go back and feed myself empowering responses to his bullshit...and then GTFO of that relationship a hell of a lot sooner than I did.

Here's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of how we got together:  freshman year of college I spent some time hanging out with the front desk attendant.  One day his friend, we'll call him "Bob," was there, too.  Bob and I hit it off immediately - he was witty, obviously smart, and we played off of each other really nicely.  Within 30 minutes I was introducing him as my Close, Personal Friend.  Bob had a girlfriend back at home - a girlfriend that he just wasn't sure he wanted to stay with, since here he was off at college and surrounded by all kinds of new people.  After spending lots of time together (totally platonically), and then going home for the summer, he came back...single.  After a few months we started dating.

Bob had issues.  Huge, chauvinist ones.  For example, he described his future wife this way - she would be well-educated, very pretty without wearing makeup, very thin (he preferred size 5 - yes, please do note his use of "junior" clothes sizing), exceedingly intelligent but not smarter than him, she would need to work at least 30 hours per week outside the home so that she would have interesting things to talk about, she would need to be responsible for all the child-rearing except for the fun stuff like ball games, oh and he didn't clean or cook so she would have to do all of that, too.  He told me all of this not as what his "ideal" wife would be like, but rather as his standard - he would accept nothing less.

So let's stack me up against those criteria, shall we?  At 19 I was in college, he thought that I was, "Not beautiful," but that I, "Clean up nice" (yes, he did actually tell me that), a size 14, he alternated between telling me I was smarter than him and yet at the same time stupid, not sure that I wanted kids, and not willing to take on a full time job without splitting the chores.  Hmmmmm.  There's a bit of a disconnect there.

He would remind me of the fact that I was bigger than he liked.  Constantly.  He would talk about how he's just not attracted to "bigger" girls, and how 5 was the "perfect" size and what did I wear again?  and he would point out girls walking by with nice bodies, and would invite me to go work out with him at the gym.  He said he was trying to "encourage" me to be "healthier."  But here's the thing: I wasn't fat.  I wasn't even overweight.  Ever.  Sure, I was right on the upper end of the healthy range on the BMI chart, but that does not equal overweight.

I think what compounded it was the fact that before I even met him, I was starting to get a little nervous about my weight gain.  I put on 10 pounds my senior year of high school, following foot surgery and a yearlong recovery.  Then I put on the freshman 15 25.  One morning I was getting dressed and saw them: bright red streaks across my rear and thighs.  Stretch marks.  I was horrified.  But at that point all I would need to do is go back to my habits before, and the weight would stabilize.

No.  Now it was a question of whether this guy that I was over the moon for would still be attracted to me.  So I dieted, failed, dieted again, lost weight, regained it, dieted again, and took up various forms of exercise in the process.  I remember, with a cringe, jogging down the streets of my college town, huffing and puffing, and with each footfall thinking, "If I lose 20 pounds, Bob will think I'm hot."

So guess what?  I lost the weight and he still broke up with me.  Something about wanting to "meet new people," and, "break out of his circle of friends."  The next time I saw him he was dating someone else he had known since freshman year.  After that ended he dated one of my sorority sisters.  When I told him that I had a crush on one of our mutual friends, however, he went ballistic, accused me of going for his "best friend," and being a whore.  I put the weight right back on and started dating his "friend" (actually more of a casual acquaintance - the friend was thoroughly confused at being named Bob's best friend - "We only talk like once or twice a month...what gives?").

Fast forward 10 years.  I lost that weight again, and then some.  I'm actually back down to where I was in high school and that's after giving birth.  But I didn't lose the bulk of it by dieting - I lost the bulk of it by surfing and rock climbing.  I was having fun, and I wasn't worried about the weight loss.  I mean, it was a super awesome side effect, but not my main goal.

I want to go back to my 19 year old self and give me a good shake and a slap upside the head.  I want to explain to myself that this guy was disgustingly toxic, and that there was nothing that I could do to make him attracted to me.  I want to tell me that even if he did ever decide to fully commit to me that I would be miserable with him, because no earthly woman could ever live up to his "standard," and that any woman who did live up to it would have the self-confidence to ditch his sexist ass in a heartbeat.

I want to tell myself that being thin for someone else is far more unhealthy than being a comfortable size for ME.  It gives someone else a kind of control over my body that only I am allowed to have.  He's allowed to have his preferences, but if my size was such an issue for him then he needed to cut me loose and cleanly, too.

But here's another thing that I want, and I'm not sure how healthy this is.  I have a secret fantasy of happening to run into Bob somewhere around town (he ended up moving to my hometown).  We run into each other, catch up on old times, and I let him know how many years of damage he did to my self-confidence and body image, and that I didn't drop the weight that he hated so much until I was able to love myself for me - and realize what a toxic influence he was on my life.

But that's probably not a healthy fantasy, either.

No comments: