I used to be one of those 22-year-olds who could eat two hot dogs for breakfast, followed by a delicious Arby's lunch and a sensible dinner of 4,583,839 beers from a pitcher, and the whole time I was a size 4. I used to lament the fact that I couldn't find jeans that were tight enough.
And yes. I wish to slap me, also.
The good news for you is it caught up with me in my early 30s. All of a sudden, I had 9/10 pants and a very big bra, as the song says. And would you like to know what I did about it?
Oh, I frowned and pouted and continued to eat Arby's, and did nothing but think about myself and how all of a sudden I looked like a marsupial and was the most hideous woman on the planet. To make matters worse, the year of my most noticeable weight gain, I'd moved to Seattle, where I had an impressive job as a receptionist, pulling down $22,500 annually.
This meant that not only did I feel fat, I also felt like I couldn't buy any cool-Seattle-girl clothes. Size 9/10 cool-Seattle-girl clothes. So, I … stayed in. I wouldn't go to clubs or bars or even to the coffee shops I'd moved to a big city to experience. My whole goal, since I was 12, was to move somewhere real and live the big-city life, and there I was, staying home night after night because I was fat.
Which, by the way, I wasn't. I was still pretty cute, I see from old photos. But in my mind I was Lulu on "Hee Haw."
Other than during some occasional very impressive bouts of depression, I have never gotten my 22-year-old body back, and have remained, you know, curvy. And now I'm in my late 40s, still looking vaguely marsupial* and guess what?
I'm not even sure when I picked this knowledge up, but somewhere as the years went by, I realized that no one is paying nearly as much attention to yourself as you are.
Let's say you have that party where your ex is gonna be, or that college get-together of the women you were such good friends with. And your hair is stupid. Or your breasts are divining water all of a sudden. Or apparently chipmunks have taken up residence in your bra, because how else can you explain those lumps over that back strap. And you don't want to go to whatever function because you don't look your best.
You know what? Get over yourself.
Here's the thing. When you go to that get-together? I promise you, everyone there is not thinking of you so much as they're thinking: Will everyone notice I look like Buster Brown in this hairdo? Will they see the price tag I stuck in this dress because I can't really afford it and will return it after? Are they picking up on the part where I'm a closeted lesbian and just don't have the nerve to tell them all?
Everyone is having some kind of internal drama, something they feel insecure about. No one is spending that much time assessing you. I mean, think about it. When you look at an old friend and she's gained weight, do you spend that much time wondering about it? Does it make you like her any less?
The thing is, it won't be all that long before we're feeling the silk, folks. We have only so many days to sit around and tell old stories with people who knew us when we wore neon-green ankle socks. There aren't all that many times left to fall over laughing over that anecdote about your friend pooping on herself when she stepped over the dog gate. That party you don't go to? It might be the last one that that particular group ever has.
So, yes, you got fat. You got old. You got … something. Instead of concentrating on that, why not think about what you can bring to the evening? Can you go there and try to mend an old fence? Can you go to the wedding and sit with your weird aunt for 15 minutes, maybe make her feel a little appreciated? Maybe you can delight the room with your caramel cupcakes, Back Fat. Whatever. Just try to think what you can do for everyone, rather than what everyone thinks about you.
Because, what people think of you is none of your business, anyway. All you can change is you.
*This preachy piece was brought to you by Karen, who may or may not have to schlep her marsupial pouch to a 30th class reunion later this month.