As I walked with Gloria around the little loop in the compound, now weighing easily over 200 pounds I wondered how it had all gotten so out of control. I was in my 8th month of pregnancy but this excuse had been used throughout the years and now I weighed a good 90 pounds more than I had in college. Weight had always been an issue in my life but with each passing pregnancy extra pounds had been easily added on. I had five babies in 6 short years so there wasn’t much time in between to hit the gym and lose the weight. I settled in to the busy role of mom, and life moved along without thinking about diet or exercise. But now as my hips and back ached I thought about this sore subject that had followed me for years.
I stood and barked like a dog with a little woof woof, the whole class erupted in laughter and the focus was then switched to the class bully who only moments before had made a comment I had become accustomed to hearing. “ Lynn could use Cycle 4 dog food for over weight dogs, ha ha get it??? ” her voice rang out in the 7th grade home-Ec class, everyone sat staring at me, waiting. The whole room tensed and a sick silence fell as they all focused their attention on the opposite side of the room. Students stared at me while I sat nervously tapping my pencil against the desk. All eyes boring down on this 7th grader who stood at 5 foot 2 inches and weighed a mere 105 pounds. It had all been said before, “pleasingly plump” “chubby” and of course, “over weight”. I did what I had learned to do after many comments like this one, I stood with ease and made my snarky retort .
It was my second year of University when I made the decision to shed the 25 pounds I had gained in high school. I woke at 5 a.m to swim at a near by pool, jog and walk around campus, drastically cutting my calorie intake. I lost the weight and faced the fact that I was not fat. My sister looked me over and informed me that I had a “fat” image and needed to change how I felt about myself before I would be successful in keeping this weight off. She challenged me to really look at myself and see who I was. Looking back I had never really been “overweight” until I hit high school and I gained 25 pounds. Still I had spent my youth hearing every bit of advice regarding my fat body. I was an extrovert but had grown shy to enter a room or sit with people who I knew would make jokes about fat.
The following summer is when I met him, a thin, well mannered, beautifully tan and soft spoken man. We spent that summer locked in a lover’s bliss that only true love can elicit. I had transferred Universities to be near him and continue with our relationship. Over the summer I had gained back 5 pounds of the 25 that had been shed. As school started I got back into my routine and lost the weight easily. I started exercising again and vowed to continue to be at my best and healthiest. Our communication was accompanied by hand gestures, dictionaries and often his friends with better English threw in the odd comment to help out. He had been in the U.S. for 2 years but his comprehension and verbal skills were still rough. One message I got very clearly was that I needed to eat. He insisted on feeding me and wanted me to be “healthy” as he put it. At first this was endearing and sweet that he cared so much and didn’t seem to care about my weight. But I was happy with my new body image and chugged along sticking to the plan. I didn’t have a scale but a tight pair of jeans did nicely to gauge whether I had gained or lost. The school year started at the new University, classes were large, sometimes 500 students, strange faces every where as I had left my jazz singing buddies behind. Fall leaves were making their way to the ground, creating a colorful blanket under trees and holidays would soon be approaching, but I still forged on and kept my promise to be healthy. We got to know each other better and he proved to be the man I had dreamed of. He was kind to a fault, he stood beside me at the grocery store unable to chose a salad dressing to purchase, pushing me to make all decisions. He was strong in many ways, he was not afraid of anyone or anything and encouraged me to stand up when I felt weak. We spent our days separated by 10 miles being at different University campuses, but he still came to see me every couple days. As Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas approached he easily took part in every festivity. He purchased a 14 karat gold necklace, a leaf, lined with intricate details hung from a delicate chain. He did not have money, his father owned a shop in Damascus, Lira did not go far in America. He still he insisted on buying gifts for me and for my parents. Life was sweet being lost in a haze of love and romance. As each day passed I felt more and more enthralled with him, his life and his background. The only constant disagreement we faced was over my calorie intake, a small issue it seemed. I managed to stick with my new healthy image for several years and stood my ground on this issue. As time went past and I had several pregnancies it seemed lovely and sweet that he did not care as others had about my weight.
Each tear made a drip drip drip down onto the plates and into the kitchen sink. They fell into the sudsy water, melting and gone forever. Tears mixed with soap and water, tears of confusion and sadness as many tears are. The clanking of dinner plates, the tiny scrapes of forks and spoons, happy sounds of eating together, a family. Sounds of giggles and laughter echoed in the empty space. Only a dining room table purchased from “as is” and 8 chairs stood in this bare and vacant room. Things had come full circle 15 years after moving to Riyadh and we were back to where we had started. The older kids did not laugh, now adults, they sat, sullen faces, moving bits of food around on their plates pretending to eat. They glanced to the kitchen where their mother stood hunched over the sink doing pots and pans from that night’s meal. She swept and mopped and finally came in to collect the dishes. Her eyes were red and it was obvious she had shed tears but she smiled and collected plates. She was no longer allowed to eat at the table if she refused to eat the meal she had prepared, banished until she came to her senses and quit trying to lose weight.