Monday, July 6, 2009

Fat, Dumb, and Happy

The phrase, "Fat, Dumb, and Happy" is stuck in my mind because I've been wondering what life would be like if I never realized I was "different."

There was a time, back in high school, when I was blissfully unaware of my differences. Sure, I didn't have a lot of friends, but that's because I was focused on grades to get free college ride. And I was a nerd. Lack of friendship was expected. But when I went to college, my eyes were opened. I saw that others -even nerds- experienced a depth in relationships I had never known. I saw that people treat me worse when I presented myself as "me," and learned how to project a confidence I don't really feel. I lost about 60 pounds, became part of the "normal weight club" and discovered just how horribly others thought of "fatties" LIKE ME. Even now I can hardly purchase groceries without worrying over whether people are judging me for what I throw in the basket, for I've regained a few of those pounds.

I know I should be thankful. These revelations have allowed me to ascend to a higher professional status than I deserve. To make more money than I deserve. To be more than the Goodwill Janitor prescribed by my psych eval no offense to my Goodwill brethren intended- I'm just saying I should be where you are, but praise God, am able to hold a better job. I also have more social interaction, participate in networking events, and are routinely invited to events with coworkers (though none are as fulfilling as my friendships with a handful of other intense Aspies).

But on the other hand, my days are shadowed by a growing dislike of my natural self and seething anger of the injustice of having to conform. Before I knew I was different, I was happy. Happy with who I was and what I could accomplish.

What if I still believed that everyone else out there processes information like I do, or that they all have the same level of social interaction as I do. To not know how they belittle me when my weight creeps up. To not know how they make fun of my strange behaviors (before I learned to control and hide them). I wonder what it would be like to go back to not caring what anyone thinks of me. And one day, when I secure my retirement, and buy my house in the middle of nowhere, I intend to do just that. But it won't be the same for me.

It takes every ounce of energy I have to put up the proper front during the day, leaving me collapsed in a heap at the end of the day, with little time or energy for the things that truly give me joy. Why do I continue? Because I want to keep my job til I can retire, and I want people to take good care of my son while he's under my care. Those two goals inflict a requirement to get along with others, play "the game," be mindful of what they think about my appearance, behavior, life, etc. I tell myself it will be worth it 10 years from now when I have a "check for life" coming in and my son is a confident, productive member of society. I also tell myself that one day I will accept myself for who I am, embrace the good and the bad, and stop holding myself to someone else's standards of who I should be.

But until then, I'll sludge along and try not to look back wistfully at the days when I was "Fat, Dumb, and Happy."


Janet said...

My grandmother is convinced her mother and her mother's friends used to go around town and judge other women by how clean their windows were and how they hung out their laundry (early 1900's). Since my grandmother is one of 10 children and her mother didn't have an electric washing machine, made all her own baked goods, raised her own chickens for meat and eggs, farmed, and kept and milked a couple dairy cows- I don't think she had enough time to look at how other women hung out the wash.

It's funny how we focus on the negatives when we evaluate ourselves and other's reactions to us. I usually think my supervisor (whether professional or volunteer) is irritated with me, thinks I spend too much time talking, have an unprofessional appearance, don't work hard enough, etc, etc. All of my performance reviews say that I always maintain a professional appearance (even as a volunteer), am a hard worker, goal oriented, focused, a fast learner, etc., etc.

My perceptions of what people think are rarely correct. Now that I'm a bit older (at the ancient age of 34) I've discovered that people are much more forgiving and less judgmental than I thought they were.

Sure, occasionally the skinny people judge me based on what I put in my grocery cart- but for the most part I think we're all just curious how other people live their lives. I love watching young men unload their shopping carts. They have things like frozen pizza and rubbermaid containers, beer, and 2 apples, plastic silverware and frozen brownies. It's always educational to watch other moms in the store. Do they buy the same things I do? How do cultural difference affect shopping expenditures? Sometimes I watch the Mexican moms and think, I want to eat at your house!

Is it possible you're being too hard on yourself? I bet that you are much more liked and admired than you know. It's not human nature to walk up to someone and say, "I really like you! You are so much fun to be with! Wow, you are much better at that than I am." So... we are left to wonder and worry and assume that people don't criticize us to our faces because they're too polite. What if instead they are too shy to tell you how much they admire you?

SavedAspie said...

Hi Janet, thanks for your comment!

I'd like to think I'm being too hard on myself, but there are several recent episodes that make me realize just how mean and judgmental people are.

For example in the post "Why are People So Mean About My Weight" I gave a couple of examples, such as this that occurred this past April:

"I was on a business trip and the hotel offered free dinner. I heaped a ton of pasta on my plate- intending to save some money by eating half and saving the rest for lunch. I step into the elevator with an older couple, and the wife proceeds to ask me, "Are you actually going to EAT all that??" I was angry that she would ask that (it's none of her business) but I was happy for once that I had the "right answer," and politely told her, "No I'm saving half for lunch tomorrow." Her response? "Yeah, right. You're going to eat it all." I was SO glad we reached her floor at that point. But SO stunned that she would say that to me. And even worse, upset at my inability to respond in a way that affirmed myself."

Another occurrence, late May/early June: I was with a running group. We had just gone 10 miles- like we do every Saturday. I was (as usual) slower- carrying about a 10-11 min/mile pace, so I was one of the last to finish. After the run, I was talking with a new girl and some others about "salty sweaters" a term I had learned from that month's Runner's World. One can tell they are a salty sweater if their face feels gritty after a run and if their sweat tastes extremely salty. For them, after a run it's important to get something salty like pretzels. I was telling the new girl how the next run after discovering this I had a small bag of chips (and I added, "just one") and felt SO much better after the run. I did not anticipate her response: "Just one bag? Yeah right. Why lie about it- you don't have to impress us."

I didn't know WHAT to say! I HAD only eaten one small bag (or I wouldn't have told them, because I was one of the larger slower people in the group and was having trouble fitting in even though I'd been running with them every Sat for almost 4 months). But if I had insisted I only had one small bag, that would make it look even worse. So I just said "that's what I did, and it really helped to get some salt in me."

But her comment hurt.