"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
September 20, 2012
Tiptoeing around the Truth
by Hannah Bird

My brother, Ollie who knows me very well and loves me anyway recently sent me a quote by Oscar Wilde, "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh.  Otherwise they'll kill you."  Ollie suggested I adopt this as my motto.  I delightedly responded that I already had and in fact the quote hangs above the computer where I write.  

I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment.  There is nothing harder or more uncomfortable to say than the truth.  Sometimes people find it flat out rude.

I am not talking about the kind of truth telling where I point out that your child isn't that cute and stuttering out a half of sentence at the age of three is hardly advanced.  I am not talking about the kind of truth where I say that it isn't the dress that makes your butt look big, it is your butt.  I am not talking about telling someone that you actually aren't listening but they can continue talking to you as long as they interpret your silent blinking as a cry for help.

No.  I am talking about the truth of hard things.  

I am fat.  I am also very loved.  So even as those near and dear to me read over that sentence, hackles flew up.  I know this because every time I say I am fat I am reassured that I am not fat and not to say that ever again.  Except that I am fat.  I was a thin person much of my life.  I enjoyed it tremendously and I am glad I did.  Because now I am most assuredly not a thin person.  Getting seriously ill ended that for me.  Steroids, epinephrine, and the inability to breathe has left me almost unrecognizable.  It hurts to be sick.  It hurts to be fat.  Being fat in America is a crime except for a real criminal has the presumption of innocence and fat people don't get that.  We are our crime.

It isn't perception or low self-esteem that make me believe I am fat.  It's the fat that does it mainly.  That and the clothes.  I am not a few pounds overweight.  I am not a little heavier since I have seen the back side of 40.  I am fat.  I am massively spectacularly fat.  I am one chin away from being declared a landmark.  F-A-T.  It is a fact that anyone can see and no one will let me say.

Because the people who love me think I am saying something else.  They think I am saying, "I am sad."  They think I am saying, "I hate myself."  They think I am saying, "I am unlovable."  They race to reassure me about hurts I do not feel.  They love me. But really, I am just saying that I am fat.  Fat is challenging and odd to me.  

I never saw myself ending up as a fat person.  Sometimes I want to talk about that.  Sometimes I want to talk about being afraid to eat in public.  I want to talk about hating pictures of me.  I want to talk about knees that creak and shirts that pinch arm fat and the humiliation of huffing and puffing because of a respiratory disorder and having people judge those puffs.  

I want to talk about why all the fat lady clothes are so deliberately unkind and what sort of soulless sociopath made skinny jeans in my size.  I want to talk about walking past a reflective surface and being shocked anew every day.   I want to talk about the scariness of disappearing a little every day into a face and body that can't be mine.  

So loving people assure me that I am not that big.  Mirrors and clothes tags call them liars.  People assure me that look fine.  People tell me not to talk that way about myself.  But the mirror and I still see it.  How bad must it be to be fat if people won't let you say it even when it is undeniable?  

It is still worse to be sick.  

When I got sick everyone prayed for me to get better.  Like I said, I am loved.  But I didn't get better.  What I got instead was another fact.  A diagnosis.  And apparently that is very scary too.  Because sick is full of unsayable things.

So people tell me that I, looking like a stack of tires and breathing like Darth Vader, will outlive everyone.  It isn't terribly likely, but somehow it is more polite than discussing diagnoses that escort us off this mortal coil.  I am assured that despite having lungs as diseased and twisted as my sense of humor, I will be fine.  

It's nice, I suppose, to be loved.  And these are the niceties we observe for one another.  But sometimes I still need to say things.  I need to say that disappearing is hard.  I need to say that I worry about who will tell my children that their babies look just like they did.  I want to talk about being 41 and knowing how I will most likely leave this world.  

So I will laugh.  I will make wildly inappropriate jokes about eating villagers if I am not appeased.  I will laugh about every call I making sounding like an obscene phone call with heavy breathing and no voice.  I will laugh about getting a zip code.  I will laugh about becoming an autobot with my army of assistive devices.  And maybe if I laugh you will laugh too, long enough to let me tell the truth.


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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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