Her Rubenesque fingers stab at the phone. I hear it ring in stereo – once, tinny from the speaker pressed against her cuddly ear, and then, far-off, in a glass-walled cage of disdain, I hear it ring again.
ELLO? she is shouting. ELLO IT IS NURRRSE JEAN!
I hear the receptionists reply hello? yes? hello? on the other side of one room and two doors.
For a surgery with a complex system of intercoms and internal phone systems, I ponder, they certainly could save a lot of money by simply falling back on the traditional shouting methods, pioneered by elk and perfected by fishwives over the ages. But no, instead, innovatively, they have decided to use both. At once. All the time.
It is a technique I first noticed while sitting in the waiting room for an hour, listening to NURRRSE JEAN! admonish two old ladies for being too quiet and a man on crutches for not being able to walk properly. I notice it again here, now, as blunt words are bellowed with enough force to drive joy from my life and tears from my eyes.
ELLO? ELLO I CANNOT GIVE HER PILL! SHE AS PUT ON TOO MUCH WEIGHT! AND SHE IS TOO EAVY! AND ER BLOOD PRESSURE IS DANGEROUS IGH! SHE MUST SEE THE DOCTOR NOT ME SHE IS TOO FAT GOOD BYE.
And she puts the phone down. Sitting on my chair, tying the laces on shoes that are starting to dissolve at the edges, I see the first hot teardrip hit my toe, and try desperately to think of a way of saying Dont you think you could have said that to me that first? without making her shout at me again.
But I cant. So I push out a croaky Thankyouverymuch, and, biting and holding and tearing and holding the inside of my lip hard with my sharp front teeth, I go to the desk, wait whole hour-minutes while they flick through the appointment book of Dr Death, then walk home, head down, ashamed, stumbling as soberly, snuffling as maturely, panicking as calmly and wailing as quietly as I can.
Ive never been light. Or thin, really. Im not built that way. Ive never been thin. Ive never been light.
I have been Alight mind, but not for long, and thats not what you asked me. Ive never been light. Or thin.
Ive certainly been thinner, a bit, and lighter, a tad, but Ive never been thin. Or light, really.
Light particularly, as it happens.
Im not going to tell you my exact weight – Im a lady after all – but let me tell you, it bears very little resemblance to my actual appearance. Oh youre not fat, people say, Sure, youre not thin, you are curvy, but youre not fa – well, how much do you weigh?
I tell them.
My GOD! The usual reaction. Is that POSSIBLE? Are you allowed in lifts?! Are your bones made of LEAD? Have you contacted Mr Norris McWhirter about a Guinness World Record?!
No, I have not, I say he is dead.
Is he?! They reply Is he? Was it YOU?! Did you sit on him? Did you, like, EAT him or something?
I sometimes wonder if Im talking to the right people about these things.
Thats not true. It cant be. For the longest time, I wouldnt talk to anyone about these things. Anyone at all. Yes, I was chubby, yes, I was good at playing confident and bubbly, and yes, I wasnt that happy about it, but no, I couldnt ever tell anyone that, because it was a shameful thing, I felt – feel – repulsed by it, angry with it, all those things, and worse, if I mentioned that I didnt like the way I looked, that gave them perfect licence to say that they didnt like it either.
And besides, in some ways I felt positive about it – I love food – I love flavours and textures, I dont want to be told what to do, what to eat, how to behave. And lets face it, I started my recent serious campaign for chubbiness when I fell in love, became happy and content and ate too much. It happens. Boo hoo, Im happy.
Of course, I dont want there to be social shame in being larger than a stick. I want to drink pints if I feel like, not some pussy Bacardi and Diet Coke. I want to enjoy life to the fullest, and I want to not care if my sillhouette displays it. And hell, Id rather be in love than not fat, wouldnt I? Wouldnt I?
Well, yes and no
No, mainly yes. But also no. Id rather be in love and happy, but unfortunately I cant seem to just be happy about whatever the hell it is Im lugging around on these child-bearing hips of mine. Much as I want all the things above, I also want other things.
I want not to cry clothes shops.
I want to be able to look in a full length mirror without wanting to cover it over with a shroud.
I want to let people pictures of me without wanting to shout at them, or pulling a silly face.
I want not to worry about manouvering my way out of a crowded bus, fearing that everyone will feel like they need to move out of the way to let the cow get past.
I want to walk with my head up, not scared of catching my reflection in a window.
Stupid thing is – I actually dont care what size I am, or what shape – all I want is to be happy.
Something has to change. Either me, or the way I deal with being me. And mixed into that, the way I deal with other people who seem concerned with an unhappiness they feel I must surely have.
Its only a blood pressure test. Summoned to NURRRSE JEAN!s office with a perfunctory UH! which could, admittedly, be taken for my name if you care little for constentants or civility, I walk in, and am barked at for five minutes. I have a conversation. She has a conversation. It is rarely the same conversation.
TAKE OFF YOUR COAT. ROLL THAT SLEEVE NOW.
One sided weather-banter bounces off her generous, yet impervious, bosom. I try a different tack. Busy today? Nothing. Holiday this year? Zip.
YOUR DIABOLIC PRESSURE. ISS TOO HIGH!
Really? How odd. Its never been high before – why might that be, do you think?
YOU SAY IM LYING? WHY YOU SAY IM LYING?! I NOT LYING. WE DO IT AGAIN THEN YOU WILL SEE!
Nonono, Im just surprised.
I WEIGH YOU
Oh, gosh! Well, let me tell you, Ive put on weight since going on this pill, so this is just going to be horrible, you know I wonder if
TAKE OFF SHOES. AND SOCKS
Oh cant I leave the socks on? Then I can always blame the terrible result on having 3-stone socks! Oh alright. I bet you hear that all the
STAND HERE. STAND STILL.
– I comply. I comply silently. I smile sweetly. She finishes her concentrated weighing and slaps the machine off with a grunt that is either nonchalant, dismissive, disgusted or joyful. It is difficult to tell with grunting.
How do I weigh up? I smile. She ignores me.
Do you think the blood pressure might be connected to my weight? Am I overweight? I ask. She ignores me. I sit down. So if I, you know, if I lost weight, would that help the blood pressure thing, or do I have to do something else?
She looks at me distainfully then looks away. She picks up the phone with her well-rounded hand.
I start to put my shoes back on.
The thing is, I dont think it was particularly NURRRSE JEAN! that pushed me over the edge. I dont know what it was.
I had a conversation with a good friend a few months ago when I realised in the space of one sentence that rather that, contrary to the way I thought my friends saw me, when she looked at me, she pitied me.
I realised that when she looked at me, she didnt see someone who was chubby, but ok. She didnt see someone who lived life to the full. She saw someone she would hate to look like. She wasnt being hurtful, or trying to upset. She was being caring.
She felt sorry for me, and fully expected me to feel the same.
I realised she pitied me, and I felt ashamed.
But, you know what? It that wasnt it either. In fact, that episode made me want to be as joyfully fat as I liked, and in fact, to feel sorry for her, knowing the self-image issues in that conversation were mainly hers, not mine.
Or perhaps it was that vile man we met in Belgium last year, who tried to chat me up behind my beloveds ear, trying to make a sexual sucker out of my wobbliest bits in the filthiest, gutteringest, phelgm-raising, skin-crawlingest way.
Perhaps it was any of them, or the woman who looked me up and down on the bus. Or the man who looked through me like I wasnt there, anywhere, anytime.
No. It wasnt them.
Theres nothing negative about my current crusade.
Its all positive – and no matter what fed into it, its all good.
Who knows, maybe I do just have a morbid curiosity, desperate to find out if my insides are made with tightly packed kryptonite or the heaviest metal known to goth, and nothing can be done about it. Perhaps its that dear old biological clock, ticking away, ever unsubtly. Unsubtlier. – There is nothing right about that word. Still – Perhaps its age. Perhaps its time. Perhaps its the magic vitamins Ive discovered that are making me afraid of nothing, nothing in the world. Perhaps its all of these and a fistful of something else too.
But I am determined.
Determined. Oh yes.
I mean, Im not sure what Im determined to do, whether its change me, or change the way I think about me.
Mind me, World, mind this: if I get thin, its not because I want to look like the social ideal; its not so you can say thats better, or chalk another mark on the Team Clone board. Its not for any of those things. And besides, no matter how many gyms and how much crisp healthy somewhat-flavourless eating I do, it simply isnt going to happen.
Because Ill never be thin, I know. I havent got the build, and I would look plain stupid. Ive never been thin, and Ill never be light.
Ive never been light, and Ill never be thin, but you know what?
Determined to do Something As Yet Unspecified.
And therefore everything is good.