Sassy, thirty-something woman with great sense of humor, good career, positive attitude, and go-getter spirit. Also has hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, sleep disturbances, memory changes, mood changes, fatigue and weight gain. Seeking a plate full of carbs, chocolate covered anything, a self-regulating blanket that knows when she’s about to wake up in night sweats, and a scale that reports 40 lbs less than she really weighs. Applicants accepted immediately.
One day, I just noticed it. It didn’t creep up on me like I had expected to, but one day, it was just there. Unavoidable. Like a surprise dinner guest when you just got into your comfy pajamas with the yellow ducks and soap bubbles patterned up and down the sides. The pajamas that you spilled coffee on a year ago and just can’t seem to get the stain out, but that stain reminds you of how much you love coffee. The pajamas where the seams are just slightly coming apart. The pajamas that, when you spilled some frosting on them from the cupcake you are eating, you wonder “are these actually clean enough to use my finger to scoop off the frosting and lick the frosting?” but then you do it anyway because you trust these pajamas pants. They are your soulmate. And, you would definitely lick frosting off your soulmate.
Every Wednesday for the past three years, I have attended this weekly meeting with the other Directors in my division and I sit in the same spot, same chair, and have the same view of the room. My routine is comforting — I enter into the room, place my pen and paper on the table that seats 12, position my phone to the right hand side of the very fancy desk blotter that sits in front of each Director, turn the wheeled chair a tad to the left, slip into the chair, and pull the chair in so that my elbows are at a 90 degree angle on the table. I am ready for anything.
Two weeks ago, I entered the room, placed my pen and paper on the table that seats 12, positioned my phone to the right hand side of the very fancy desk blotter that sits in front of each director, turned the wheeled chair a tad to the left, slipped into the chair, and pulled the chair in so that my elbows are … urgh… what the? …. ugrh… What the hell is blocking my chair? What the hell is blocking my chair??
I swiveled around and peeked under the desk. Maybe one of the wheels was caught on my bag or a fallen sweater. I used my legs to pull my chair in, hoping to at least break free from whatever it was that wouldn’t allow my chair to move forward.
And, that’s when it hurt.
Physically and emotionally.
I felt the harsh edge of the table push up against my mid-section. My stomach. My body.
My own body.
My own body was keeping the chair from moving in close enough for my elbows to sit at a 90 degree angle on the table.
I wasn’t ready for this.
I had heard that weight gain was a common result of surgical menopause. I had read that women unexpectedly watched the numbers on the scale creep up after surgical menopause, a result of my high risk of ovarian cancer and the decision to thrust my body into a hormonal abyss. A decision to remove my ovaries, my future of child bearing, and an untimely battle with cancer left me with a growing mid-section.
I hadn’t felt my pants getting tighter or my clothes fitting smaller. I hadn’t felt weak or noticed any trouble lifting myself out of bed. I hadn’t noticed myself getting bigger or doorways getting smaller.
But, at that moment, I was faced with the reality of my changing body. And, like most women who have been socialized to place worth on how our bodies look or what types of norms we should fit, I began to feel
like shit worthless. I began to think of all the speaking engagements I should cancel because it would be horrifying to for all of these people in the audience to look at me under glaring spotlights. I began to think of all the conference presentations I had to go to and whether or not people would see me as “the chubby Asian American lady.” And, any doubts and fears I had about going to my upcoming high school reunion were dismissed because, well, I definitely wasn’t going to go now.
“But, you don’t look like you gained weight,” said my co-worker when I revealed to her about the hormonal weight gain. It’s funny how a well tailored black jacket can do wonders.
For the rest of the day, I kept thinking about (and, oddly enough, banging into) my much larger midsection. I went to more meetings that day and tried to hide it. Once, when sitting, I tried to fold my arms across my chest, but quickly realized that my arms were actually settling in on TOP of my stomach — yes, like a shelf. That trick ended quickly. Then I tried to sit super close to the table so that my stomach hid underneath the table top. That worked until I realized my boobs were just laying on the table like a shelf. Awkward. Eventually, I just let it all out. I just let myself be me.
When I came home, my 5-year old son asked me to sit on the couch with him. And, like always, he snuggled up underneath my arm, took his tiny hand and began to rub my stomach. “Oh! Flat tummy! I love flat tummy!” he said in a familiar tone. Evan asks for “flat tummy” at least 10x a day.
“Oh, son. I don’t think Mommy’s tummy is very flat anymore,” I said, trying to let him down easy.
“Well, it’s so soft and fluffy, and awesome, and it’s my favorite part about you,” he replied.
And it’s my favorite part about us.
Peace, love, and being all of me,