"I Hated My Friend for Losing Weight"
Facing My Own Demons
Bit by bit, the answers emerged. Since childhood, I'd believed I was inferior to anyone who was prettier or thinner. Comparing myself to obese Val made me feel good; next to thin Val, l felt terrible. Now I realized that no matter how much I loved and admired my friend, I didn't want to measure myself against her or any woman ever again. It goes against everything I profess to believe about personal worth.
That said, I really dislike being overweight. It keeps me tentative about life. It holds me back professionally. And right or wrong, it makes me feel I'm destined to be alone, because no man could love me as I am. By taking charge of her weight, Val had unwittingly thrown down the gauntlet, showing me that if I stayed fat, I would be living a half life -- safe, detached, and lonely. It was time to change -- not just my weight, but my outlook. I had started by being candid with myself. It was important to be honest with Val, too. One day I gathered my courage and called her.
"Do you know how mad I've been that you look so great?" I asked. "I know I'm not supposed to feel this way, but you remind me I'm out of control. That scares me."
Her response surprised me. "Do you know how it feels," she countered, "when my own friends say, 'You look fabulous -- I hate you'? At first everyone was excited. Now I get these little digs and backhanded compliments. Isn't anyone happy for me?"
We talked it all over. From my perspective, Val had flaunted her success and her sexy new shape. Even her overtures of friendship -- inviting me to go bike riding, giving me some of her old clothes -- were suspect. She explained that she certainly didn't mean to hurt me. But what about the fat clothes, I pressed? "Marjorie," she said, "there were plenty of medium-size outfits in the pile too."
During our long conversation, I finally understood the price Val paid for her thinness. She was happy with her new appearance, but the surgery and the recovery were very hard. Because of her jerry-rigged gastrointestinal system, she won't be able to eat more than a few bites of food at a time for the rest of her life. Val had lost years to obesity and to the depression and isolation that go with it. At times, she had literally been afraid that she would die. So, if she shows off a little now, well, she deserves it.
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