I lived for many years as a super-sized member of society. I do use the term “member” loosely. I functioned just as all the people around me; I worked, I traveled, I shopped, I parented and yet I lived always on the fringe. Where ever I went I felt as though I was wearing my invisibility cloak. In stores or at events everyone avoided eye contact. Their motivation may have been so as not to stare, they would politely look away. From my perspective – being politely looked away from for more than a decade begins to take a toll. Up until my very early twenties I had been a normal size so it was painfully obvious that the new role I was given among society was not normal and felt very foreign and painful. It is like when a thin attractive person puts on a fat suit and films others’ reactions with and without the suit. We’re clearly not dealing with a level playing field here. I lived inside my own Gotham City which was cold and dark. I do have to admit that my invisibility was both a curse and a blessing. It made maneuvering through life very lonely but it also served as a form of protection. Living behind the cloak became my safe place. If no one was seeing or acknowledging me then they couldn’t be judging me either, right?
I did have some family members, coworkers and friends who never treated me differently and they will always be near and dear to me for that. But for every one of them there were a dozen others who were embarrassed to be seen with me or stopped associating with me as if my heft was contagious. The cruelty we humans are capable of directing toward those who are different is astonishing.
As the majority of my extra weight came off, I began to notice a marked change in the behavior of almost everyone around me. I was stunned when men began holding doors open for me. I was accustomed to them letting the door shut in my face. I still am surprised when a cashier or waiter actually makes eye contact. While walking down grocery isles, other women will smile at me and nod as they pass by. My first instinct is to assume they are looking at someone behind me but then I realize that my cloak is gone.
I am now visible and treated as part of the group I haven’t been welcomed into for so long. With a flip of a switch my Gotham City has turned into Pleasantville. The flowers are blooming, the faces are smiling and helpful hands are reaching out to me from all directions. It’s warm here and feels nice.
I want this observation to serve as a source of hope to those who are still on the outside looking in. When you overcome the obstacles standing in your way the world will open up to you. It is also my wish that we all look beyond our social prejudices and try to see the very real person hiding behind their cloak.