A Country Where I’ve Never Been

I had a meeting with my bariatric surgeon. It’s only my second since the pandemic began, although I was supposed to check in twice a year. I reported my weight to him (142.6 as of that morning) and told him I had been stable, plus or minus about a pound and a half, for the last couple of months.

I’ve been struggling with the idea of having the excess skin from my abdomen, buttocks, and thighs removed. Right now, it looks like a deflated balloon – sort of limp and slack. It’s never going to go back, in no small part because I have never, even for one single day of my entire life, had a flat stomach. No matter how thin I’ve been, I’ve always had a flap of fat hanging off my stomach like an apron. I come by it honestly – my grandmother had the same thing, which she always called her “panza.”

I asked my bariatric surgeon how long I should wait before getting skin surgery, and he said now would be the perfect time. I don’t know why, but hearing from my surgeon not just that I should get the surgery now, but that he considered it the last step of the entire process, made me feel a lot better about it.

Now comes the really mind-bending part. At the age of 56, I will be getting a body that I’ve been wishing for since puberty. I’ll be able to wear any bathing suit I want. I’ll weigh less than I did in high school. I will wear an adult clothing size I’ve never worn.

Before the bariatric surgery, I wasn’t sure how my life would change. It has changed, but not a lot. And I’m wondering if it will change any more once I have skin surgery. Here are the biggest surprises from “I’m now 100 pounds lighter.”

  • When I find something really cute at a store, chances are better than even they won’t have it in my size. When I was heavier I never found clothes in my size because high-end stores didn’t carry them. Now it’s because they’ve sold out.
  • It doesn’t matter how great I look in clothes – my gray hair means that no one’s staring when I walk down the street.
  • Nothing ever fits quite right. It doesn’t matter what size you are, there is no way to buy clothes off the rack and have them fit perfectly. The places they’re too tight or too loose may change, but the lack of fit stays the same.
  • I will never have whatever body type is currently fashionable. And that’s okay, because neither does anyone else I know.

Putting the “Morph” Into “Dysmorphia”

I have never been able to look at myself in a mirror, then look at a crowd of people and point to one who looked like me.

For years, I would point to someone and ask whoever I was with “Is that what I look like?” It must have felt to them like I was fishing for compliments, because that’s usually what I got in return. What I really wanted to know was how I appear to other people, because I can’t tell.

What I did know was how much space I took up. I knew how far back the seat of the car should be. I knew looking at a chair whether or not it would be comfortable. Whether there would be enough room for me on a bench with other people sitting on it. Whether a particular pair of pants or shirt would fit me. Whether, if I parked my car in a certain place, I would be able to open my door wide enough to get out.

But things have changed.

I recently bought some new jeans, because the old ones were uncomfortably large. What arrived was a size smaller than I thought I had ordered, and I held them up and thought “I couldn’t fit one leg into these things.” And yet, not only do they fit, they fit loosely. I can park in smaller spaces and still get out of my car. I can sit in an armchair and cross my legs up on the seat and still fit.

You would think that would be a good thing, but what it means is that my dysmorphia is now complete. I have lost the one thing about my body I thought I knew – how much space I took up.¬†When I look in the mirror, I don’t see that my body has changed, because although my face looks thinner, my proportions are still the same. When I look in the mirror, I have nothing else to compare myself too, so I can’t see that my body has actually gotten smaller.

It doesn’t help that I am still wearing a lot of the clothes I wore at my heaviest. My leggings, for example, wrinkle even at my widest points and no longer compress me at the waist, but they don’t fall off. I have a drawer full of t-shirts that have gone from painted-on to a bit loose, but they still fit. Almost 75 pounds down, I am still wearing the same underpants, although I am less prone to wedgies.

Part of me wants to believe that I will come to recognize this new body. Not just how much space it takes up, but its shape and texture. But when I do, will I love that body as well?