I didn’t realize I gained back so much of the weight I lost until I was trying on dress shirts one morning before an important work meeting, and none of them fit. Some were too short, bunching just above the waist (If I sat down, everyone at the meeting would know I had an innie.). Others barely fit around my midriff, causing the button at the peak of my gut to bulge (So much, actually, that I worried if I sat down at the meeting someone might lose an eye.). And my favorite shirt–the first one I bought when I lost the 140 lbs. of which I had gained quite a bit back–wouldn’t even button. It looked more like a shrug on me.
Already running late, I pulled up my undershirt, put a hand on each side of my stomach and stared into the mirror. “What the fuck happened to me?” I knew I couldn’t show up to this meeting in my usual “Cheap Wine and Poetry” t-shirt and jeans, so I grabbed the shirt that bulged the least when I stood up straight and sucked in my stomach and hoped we’d be meeting around a table or something else that would obstruct the view of the button straining to stay on my shirt.
Fortunately, I showed up right on time and was whisked directly into the meeting room where–thanks to the fat gods!–there was a table and donuts, allowing me to both conceal my stomach and eat away my shame.
Two years and several new dress shirts a size higher than the last later, I finally weighed myself, and I was 278 lbs., gaining back almost 80 of what I had lost. I was so ashamed of myself. It was like an Internet sex tape scandal minus all the celebrity–and the sex. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian may be stupid, but at least they weren’t fat. Instead of completely wallowing in my Woolly Mammothness (Oh, there was some wallowing.), I donated all of the clothes I couldn’t fit into anymore that had slowly migrated to the back of my closet and decided to start fresh. Look forward, not backward, I told myself–even if backward was forward. But first (Here comes that wallowing…), I tried on each piece of clothing and looked at myself in the mirror, the fat oozing out my pants and shirts like cheese through a flap in a burrito, like grease off a floppy slice of pizza, like ice cream melting over the ends of a piece of apple pie. (Oh-so-many food metaphors for all the foods that got me here in the first place.) I wanted to hate myself for what I had done, and this was a punishment I deserved.
But I kept one item–my favorite shirt, the one I remember wearing when Carlos, my asshole-friend/former personal trainer, was in town for my birthday and gave me the only compliment he’s ever given me: “You look good, pussy.”
(You’ll learn a lot about Carlos if you come see “Fat Fuck.” I’ll be performing bits and pieces this fall…somewhere. Promise. (Email me if you’d like to have me!) But to hold you over, here’s a picture of him with an aforementioned celebrity sex tape star. This is totally SFW. She. Would. Never.)
I’ve tried on the shirt every so often, after an intense work-out or run, whenever I looked in the mirror and thought something good about myself and wanted to either feel even better or ruin it by reminding myself I wasn’t there yet. The shirt always fit better on some part of my body, but it never actually buttoned all the way, though each time the button around the gut came closer to the hole. When I began running, the shirt came out of the closet less and less until just before the summer started, and I stopped altogether because I was becoming a Bri-liever and didn’t want my past failures to mar my future successes.
Then last week, Jaime and I had a date night (I know some couples hate the term “date night,” but we’ve been together for ten years. Seeing each other in something dressier than sweatpants is a privilege.). Knowing she wanted me to see me in something other than a “Cheap Wine and Poetry” t-shirt (Dinner at a Tom Douglas restaurant and a show at a jazz club means buttons.), I tried on one of my newer dress shirts, one that only a few months earlier fit snugly, and it was too big. Surprised, I unbuttoned the shirt and wrapped the flaps around my body like a robe (and then buttoned only the collar, decided I looked like an extra in “Blood In, Blood Out” and took off the shirt.)
I tried on another–too big.
I had nothing to wear, and I was running late again, so I dug deep into my closet and pulled out my favorite shirt, which Jaime had recently insisted on taking to the dry cleaner even after I told her not to bother because I couldn’t fit into it anyway.
I put one arm through the sleeve and then the other, nervously hoping I could suck it in for the bus ride and then pull the table trick at dinner. And then I pulled the flaps over my torso, and they overlapped. THEY OVERLAPPED! I quickly buttoned the shirt and…
IT FUCKING FIT!
…and I wouldn’t have to nearly crack a rib from sucking in my gut all night.
Now I have to buy all new dress shirts…again.