Last week I wrote about growing up in a military family and the close relationship I had with my parents and sisters. My childhood probably sounded like a fairy tale to some readers; and, in some respects, I suppose it probably was a bit Brady Bunch-like. However, life for me was not an absolute rose garden. You see, children can be very cruel. They can be especially so if you are different in some way...and I was.
I started life as any normal, healthy child. Things seemed to be fine for me and I was an active, ordinary kid...until I was about 9 years old and I hit the pre-pubescent stage of life. My body began to change and what everyone thought in the beginning was "blossoming" had morphed into a not-so-normal ballooning. In hind-sight, I was not nearly as fat as some of the kids I see at that age these days. By today's standards, I was a lot closer to average. But back then, I was a fatso.
I suppose it was a very good thing that my family life was somewhat stable and peaceful, because life out in public was anything but. I was entering the time in life when the opposite sex becomes a bit more interesting...and I don't mean for playing with Match Box cars and trucks in the dirt and mud. But I was a nearly red-headed, freckled-face fat girl with pimples. Not exactly the kind of girl an appearance-conscious pre-teen boy wants to admit is his girl.
Kids had various names for me. Fatso, Tub-o-lard, Tubby, Piggy, Fat Pig, Hippo, Cow... you've probably heard names like that before. I'm sure there were many more, some of which I was not given the chance to hear. They were so endearing and playful. (/sarcasm off.) And the proverbial Kid-They-Always-Picked-Last...yeah, that was me, too. That is very hurtful when it happens every time the situation presents itself. You no longer have to wonder if there is anything wrong with you...you KNOW there is. These things did so much for my self-esteem and confidence. (Oh, sorry..I was supposed to have turned the sarcasm off.)
Thankfully, though, as it turned out I was talented in music and had an eye for art and a soulful heart with an appreciation for prose and intelligent thinking. Had I not been able to build confidence in those areas, the way I was treated by other children as I grew up could have had a devastating effect on me and my mental well-being. My family took every opportunity to build my self-confidence in those areas and it made all the difference.
I have some very hurtful memories from elementary school. While I was getting a good education in the classroom, I was also learning some hard life-lessons on the playground. I remember one day during recess we were playing Dodge Ball. Everyone forms a circle and three or four kids get in the middle of the circle. The kids that make up the circle throw a large rubber ball at the kids in the middle and try to hit them. If you're in the middle you're supposed to dodge the throws and if you get hit, whoever hits you gets to come into the middle and try to dodge the ball. I happened to be one of the ones in the middle at this particular time. (Now, back then, little girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. Dresses or skirts only.) In this conspiracy, I became the intended target of every throw. They weren't trying to hit anyone else...and the boys were aiming at my feet.
So, here I was, a large target within this large circle of "friends," wearing a dress and dodging balls being hurled at my feet. Then the inevitable happened. One of the boys successfully landed a blow on my foot just as I jumped into the air to avoid the throw. The heave had enough force to cause me to lose my balance (as my foot was knocked out from under me) and I fell to the ground in a heap, my dress flying over my head exposing my pantied butt to the world and causing my knee to come down with a crunch onto a sharp rock that embedded itself into my flesh. The crowd roared. As I struggled to get up I saw the other kids in stitches. I had been humiliated beyond belief...and to top it off, I was bleeding. I looked down at my knee and saw the rock that was trying to meld into me and calmly pulled it out. I got up and walked away as they continued to revel in my misery. I'm not sure what they think they accomplished with all that, but I'm not sure I was meant to understand it.
And then there was a guy I had a crush on in the eighth grade. His name was Gus. I finally worked up the nerve to let him know I liked him. He told me that there was no way he would date some fat tubbo like me and I was ridiculous to even think he would ever "lower" himself to that. The venom in his voice and the loathing on his face is something I have remembered my entire life. I believe that was the last time I ever let a guy know I liked him until I was a junior or senior in high school.
So I never dated. I had a couple of guys ask me out, but I would never go. After all, love hurts. I yearned for it, but was never brave enough to explore it. Love was not meant for people fat like me...or so I'd been told all my life.
I was 21 before I would ever open my heart to someone and let them in. We've been married for 32 years now. It hasn't been perfect; but, for the most part, we have been and continue to be happy together. I'm glad I finally decided to let someone in. Life would have been so lonely had I not.