Do you know what I’ve discovered? It’s 2012, and I’ve spent 464,588 hours dieting—in other words, most of my life has been possessed by a bathroom scale. I just figured out how much time I’ve wasted on this shit while much of the world is starving, and I’m so pissed off that I ate a box of gluten-free donut holes on my way to join Weight Watchers—yet again! I’m not depressed about losing and gaining weight like a yo-yo on crack, as much as I’m furious that I spent so much time chasing a damn illusion. There is a difference in wanting to be healthy, and then there’s trying to look like Cameron Diaz. Until recently, losing weight hasn’t been about me being healthy; it’s always been about fitting into someone else’s concept of what a woman should look like—mostly European descent, tall, small boned, narrow hips, slender waist, small tits, and a non-existent ass. Not looking like that plagues all the women I know, and it just kills me to see them suffer. We have this body image problem because we live in America—home of the airbrushed magazine covers and glorified stick women. I’m sure I wouldn’t have this pressure about my body image in many parts of Africa. But then again the word “dieting” would probably send me into gales of laughter as I rejoiced over the extra protein in the maggots found in my food. Food, wiggly or cooked, would be a good day to be alive, not “did I lose another pound”!
In my defense, I have inherited the genetic makeup from Hell. My Cherokee grandmother, who legend has it, was 5ft tall and 5ft wide, had fourteen children and at least two of her daughters were called, “Lily & Hannah, the Five-by-Fivers!” All my life, I’ve pushed against my genetics—half the time I’ve lost and half the time I’ve won, but only for a season. All that “fluffy” history gives me what my Doc calls: The Set-Point Prison. In other words, my Cherokee grandmother’s genetic need to hold onto fat in case her body might need it during the harsh long winters has turned me into a yo-yo dieter on crack, and no amount of multiple dieting will ever be successful in the long term. I’ve had moments of glory, sometime even years, but as soon as I relax my guard, BAM! I’m back on tour as the 5ft chocolate Rubenesque model from The Cleve.
Author’s Cherokee Grandmother
But if I’m truthful with myself, and if given the power to go back and change my genetic makeup, I wouldn’t just change the physical crap, I’d probably go back and change just about everything. Shoot, I might even become a man. What the hell! When I’m really down on myself (usually at the beginning of a New Year), I think about all the things I have yet to accomplish, and I make New Year’s resolutions that not even a god could keep because I’m just that much of a perfectionist. I fantasize about what it would be like to become the people who seem to have it all—a magical life. In my fantasy I send God my plans, replete with pictures of my idols, accompanied with impertinent questions, and I don’t need to hear an audible voice to guess what God would say to me.
Dear God: I’d like to put a stop to this set-point thing I’ve inherited, and I think the best way to do that is to be given the genetics of Halle Berry. She and I are both from The Cleve and being beautiful could just as easily have been my lot in life. What say you?
Dear Eleanor: I see you’re up to your old tricks of comparing your journey to that of another. Well, Halle’s definitely a great choice in the beauty and body department—one of my finest human specimens to date. But you must be willing to take her struggle with diabetes, her slavishness to exercise just to maintain that coveted body, her austere diet that never fluctuates, two divorces, horrific spousal abuse, abandonment by her father, etc. If you take the beauty, you have to take the pain.
Dear God: You can’t beat Hillary Clinton for intelligence and fortitude. I would love, love, love to have the courage she has displayed on the world stage. Have you been watching her? She kicks butt and takes no prisoners.
Dear Eleanor: Yep, Hillary’s my girl, but you’ll have to take a life with Bill. No Bill—no Hill.
Dear God: I am in awe of our first black FLOTUS. She’s got poise, grace, beauty, intelligence, and a spine of steel (not to mention those arms). I never ever, ever thought I’d see one of my peeps living in the White House and doin’ it with such style. If I had to pick just one of my idols, you could turn me into Michelle Obama. I’d be all right with that.
Dear Eleanor: Yes, isn’t she lovely? Personally one of my favorite FLOTUS—second only to Eleanor Roosevelt, although don’t tell Anita Perry or Callista Gingrich that. The two of them have been lusting after the FLOTUS position to the point of imploding. But are you able to handle an inordinate amount of haters and trash talkers? Think you could handle watching your husband constantly being attacked by the Rush Limbaughs and the Pat Robertsons of the world?
Dear God: On second thought being the FLOTUS might give me a heart attack. I would truly become an “angry black woman” and that would be self-defeating. I wouldn’t mind being rich, powerful, and influential however—especially as a black woman. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I choose my girl, Oprah! (But the skinny Oprah, please; I’ve had enough of fat for a lifetime.)
Dear Eleanor: No can do. You get Oprah’s wealth and power; you have to carry her cross.
Dear God: Can I possibly sneak in a career as a “working” actress, and if I’m working I might as well become a brilliant one—“I LOVE YOU MERYL.”
Dear Eleanor: Yes, isn’t she lovely? Unfortunately, you can’t be her because, as far as her talent is concerned, I broke the mold when I made her.
I am discovering that I need to cut myself some slack as do most people. I am what I am and I really don’t think God is down with making me into something that I’m not. I am also discovering that people are who they are because of the good, bad, and the ugly in their lives and working it all out is part of the human journey.
One of our daughters asked her father recently what his favorite phrase was and he said: “I love you.” When I think of Halle Berry’s life, I think of the man that says that phrase to me on a daily basis with such warmth and tenderness after thirty-two years that it makes my heart melt and it renews me. I think between Ms. Berry and myself, I may have won the lion’s share, and maybe being really “hot” would be nice but not all there is in life. Maybe being “Halle Berry” is too high a cost to pay, even for Halle Berry. When I think of all these women who are my “idols,” I think we all wake up everyday hoping to hear the same whisper in our hearts from God: “I love you, just as you are.” If I focus on that—if I rest in that—having a chubby ass in 2012 may not be so bad!
Author: Just as I am
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e.e. Cummings
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