Sunday, April 27, 2014

"Fat" is a four-letter word (part III) .....

As I've already mentioned, my weight was a constant source of irritation to my uncle's wife, and it was something she regularly criticized me for.
The school day started early, so I was always out of the house by 7:30AM or so.  Lunch was at  approximately 12:00PM, and dinner was usually around 7:00PM, since we had to wait for my uncle to arrive home from work, and his commute was at least an hour.
Once my aunt declared that my weight was unacceptable, food was off-limits to me between meals.  As a growing adolescent, seven hours was a looooooooooong time to have to wait between lunch and dinner.  I've also mentioned that food was a source of comfort, so I had a constant and ongoing combination of physical and emotional hunger. 
That pretty much sums it up.
But a hungry child is a clever child.

I often found ways to sneak food:  a slice of bread, a handful of crackers, a small amount of dry cereal -- anything to stop the cravings I felt.
Unfortunately, a powerful adult can overwhelm even the cleverest of children, and my uncle's wife didn't hesitate to establish her authority.  She tried several methods of controls, with varying success:
  • one year, when she worked within close proximity of my school, I was forced to walk to her place of business and sit on a bench in the back of the store for two to three hours until her shift was over
  • when we were transferred to a school farther away, she hired the girl next door to "babysit" me after school; since the girl was just a year older than me, this was extremely humiliating (likely the ultimate goal)
  • for a while, I wasn't given a key to the house, so that if I arrived home from school and my uncle's wife wasn't there, I had to wait outside until she returned -- no matter the weather or how long the wait
  • during one experiment, my uncle's wife forced me to "purchase" anything that I ate between meals; unfortunately for her, this backfired when she discovered that I'd finished off one item that she planned to serve for dinner, and she was furious when I argued that since I had purchased the entire item, I was within my rights to finish it all
  • in an attempt to limit my caloric intake at school as well as home, she often purchased "diet bread" for my lunch sandwich; this was simply regular bread with slices cut extra-thin (approximately one-half the depth of a regular slice)
My friends expressed their sympathy at my lunchtime sandwiches,
as the bread slices were pitifully thin.
Her punishment of choice, though, was to "ground" me.  In the six years I lived in my uncle's house, I was grounded more often than not.  If I sassed her, I was grounded.  If I lied to her, I was grounded.  If I didn't do my chores, I was grounded.  If I ate something, I was SEVERELY grounded. 
My grandparents had started me on accordion lessons when I was seven, and my Grandfather asked for me to continue them when he handed me off to his son and his wife.  They complied for a couple years, and then the lessons were eliminated because I was grounded -- for eating between meals. 
In my sophomore year of high school I tried out for the field hockey team and had a good shot at making the team -- but I was grounded before practice started and wasn't able to participate.  (Even then I realized the stupidity of this -- being a member of a sports team would have meant daily practice, something that would have meant not only that I would have been out of the house and away from food, but also daily exercise, which surely would have helped burn off some of my excess weight.  Instead, I was stuck at home where I did nothing but sit and read or watch TV.) 
I signed up for Driver's Ed when I was 15, but was grounded the first week of class and, therefore, was forced to drop the class.  (My uncle's wife refused to pay for driving lessons the next year, and I didn't actually get my license until I was almost 20 years old.)
I participated in the school's annual Talent Show one year but had to miss a couple rehearsals due to being grounded.  A boy in my Chemistry class offered to call my uncle's wife to ask her to let me attend, but I refused.  I had a serious crush on him and was deathly afraid that she'd tell him the reason for my grounding (eating between meals!) and that was something I was embarrassed for anyone else to know.
Being grounded until the end of the world was a distinct possibility.

Getting involved in activities meant that my uncle's wife would have had to make arrangements to pick me up after school, and that was something she had absolutely no desire to do.  (I stayed after school for extra help one day, having previously cleared it with my uncle's wife -- yet she left me sitting alone outside the school for nearly two hours after the agreed-upon pick-up time, with no explanation.)
What my uncle's wife didn't want to acknowledge was that my birth parents were both heavyset, as were my mother's parents.  Weight issues were obviously a trait within my biological family, but for my uncle's wife, the "nature vs nurture" debate was non-existent.  Since SHE was naturally slim, she saw no reason why I shouldn't be, too.  She preferred to think of my fat as a personal failure ... a simple lack of willpower on my part. 
Side note -- when you add a child to your family by anything other than biological methods, that child does not share your DNA.  Your physical traits and your innate talents are not present in that child, and to expect him/her to be a miniature version of you is unrealistic and unfair.  Relish any similarities you find, but learn to accept the differences. 
Most importantly, please honor and respect the child for who s/he is, and never, ever punish because of what s/he isn't.