I went to Hallmark today in search of a very specific kind of card. I perused shelf after shelf of cards, but I just couldn’t find the sentiment I needed. Finally, a kindly sales lady came over.
“Can I help you find something, dear?” she said.
“Yes, I’m looking for a card for someone who has suffered recent weight-gain,” I told her.
“Oh! You’re looking for a congratulatory card for someone who is pregnant!” she said with delight in her eyes.
“No, not that kind of weight-gain; the kind that comes from a good, old-fashioned love of cheese and baked goods. You know, a card that says something like: Sorry you’re fat and your pants don’t fit anymore. Maybe one of those cards that plays music. Music makes everything better, and it might help to ease the blow of being told you’re fat.”
“That sounds like a pretty awful card; who are you planning on giving this to?” she asked with trepidation.
“It’s for me,” I explained. “I keep gaining and losing weight and I’m currently on the upswing, if you know what I mean. I need some motivation and some reassurance. And who is better at motivation and reassurance than Hallmark? I mean, Hallmark cards only contain truth. If I get a card that says Happy Mother’s Day, I know it’s Mother’s Day; if I get a card that says Merry Christmas, it’s Christmas; and if I send myself a card that says I’m fat, well then, I’ll know I’m fat.”
The sales lady gave me that all too familiar you-might-need-a-psychiatric-evaluation look but I saw a glimmer of sympathy in her eyes as well as she patted my shoulder and walked away.
Deep down I knew the answer I was looking for wasn’t at the Hallmark store, the same way I know the answer isn’t at the bottom of a half gallon of ice cream either. I guess what I am really looking for is balance. I want to be healthy and active and make choices that support those goals. I want to wear jeans with a size that has just one number. I want to wave to people and not have my arm jiggle. But I also want to relax and enjoy a glass of wine and a piece of pie every now and then. I don’t want to worry about every single bite of food I put in my mouth. But I do. Every single bite. Should I be eating this? I earned this! This is healthy and that means I’m a good person. Oh well, I already messed up this morning with that donut, so the whole day is messed up, might as well eat my body weight in Cheetos. It should be simple, but for me it’s always been a roller coaster.
I know a lot of it is tied to my body image too. All it takes is a quick glance at the cover of Cosmo and I feel like I’m a failure. And now there are so many ad campaigns about “being real” that show women who don’t wear a size four but that just seems to beg the question: what is real and how can I be real? I want to be real and fit into my old jeans and eat cheesecake! Is that too much to ask?! But I can’t blame the media for my weight gain; I’m the one eating cheeseburgers like they might go extinct at any moment.
I guess the card I really need to send to myself should go something like this:
You’re beautiful no matter what your jean size. Don’t worry about anyone else but yourself. Eating a piece of cheesecake isn’t going to destroy your life, but neither will a good workout. Embrace the fact that you’re going to mess up, probably often, but kicking yourself when you’re down isn’t getting you anywhere.
I bet there’s a few of us out there who need this card.