Up until a few years ago, I was complimented by random people on the street enough to be completely ambivalent of it. Not to sound conceited, but it did happen pretty often. Growing up, I was always on the shy side and self conscious. I was a tall gawky looking kid and used to get teased a lot about my appearance. It wasn’t until I moved away from home and grew into my own that the compliments started coming in. At first, it was embarrassing. I’d be walking in the mall or at a fair or in a park or whereever, and a stranger would smile at me and compliment my smile or height or hair or whatever. That embarrassment would be amplified if I was with friends or a significant other. Some of my girlfriends would bristle when they saw me getting attention and a few ex-boyfriends would become snide. I got into the habit of not making eye contact with strangers for years because of it. After a while, though, I started to appreciate the compliments. To hell with what my friends and boyfriends thought. Who am I to turn down a compliment?? It made me feel good to have strangers think highly of my appearance enough that they’d go out of their way to tell me. And just to be clear, it wasn’t just men who complimented me. I’d get them from women, and I appreciated those more, because most women wouldn’t go out of their way to compliment another woman they don’t know off the street.
Anyway, all that stopped when I started packing on the weight. I didn’t even realize they had stopped. I became so ambivalent, that when it stopped altogether, I didn’t even take notice. About a year ago, I was out one night with a few girlfriends at a comedy club. While standing outside waiting to get in, I noticed the men turning their heads to get a good look at my friends. It hit me that none of them were looking at me. Even when I looked right back at them, they didn’t look. That night I realized I was ‘the fat friend.’ I was the one who wore the frumpy clothes and provided comic relief. I wasn’t the pretty one. Everything hit me that night; the years without compliments, my slowly putting up my make up until I was used to leaving the house without wearing it anymore, the utter lack of any nice clothes or shoes I had in my size. I was dowdy, frumpy, and plain. I went from dolling myself up just for a shopping trip to wearing the most body-hiding clothes I owned for a night out on the town. It was depressing.
I’ve been trying to wear make up to work again. I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of doing my hair, make up, and other girly things I used to do. It’s still hard because I still hate what I see in the mirror. I stopped making myself pretty because a few years ago, I stopped being pretty. I know that must sound really shallow of me, but it’s true. I used to take pride in my appearance, and I just don’t anymore. But I’m trying. I’m trying to care because it’s when I care about my outside appearance, I’ll take care of the inside as well. I used to take great pride of both my health and appearance, but somewhere down the line, I just stopped.
One of the things I used to get complimented about the most, believe it or not, was my walk. And, believe it or not, I used to be TOTALLY self conscious about the way I walked. I was self conscious about it because I was always told I had the same gait as my father. We’re both tall and I have the female equivalent of his build, and when we’d walk side by side, everyone used to tell us how much we looked alike. And although I love my father fiercely, no teenage girl wants to be told she walks like a man. When I joined the military, I spent the first two months literally marching. Marching in drills, marching in parades…. Marching from sun up to sun down. We were taught how to walk tall, straight, and in cadence. I took to pounding my feet into the ground, or as they said, moving with a purpose. In my mind, everytime we were marching, I was walking to RuPaul’s Supermodel. By the time I graduated basic training, my nickname was Supermodel. I loved it. After a while, though, I couldn’t stop walking that way; long strides, switching hips, feet pounding. I tried to rein it back, but it became my regular gait, especially in heels. And I ALWAYS wore heels. Anyway, one of the things I lost with this weight gain was that confident walk. My heels could not support my weight anymore, so I stopped wearing them—and if you knew me, you’d know that really hurt because one of my great loves is a good pair of stilletos.
In my slow journey to return to my old self, I’ve been trying to apply make up and wear heels again. It’s getting a little easier as time goes by because I’m starting to see the old me again, under all this fat. The more fat I lose, the better I feel about dolling myself up. On Friday after work, I stopped by the supermarket on the way home to get some dinner. The sun was setting and it was pretty chilly out, so I tried to walk briskly through the parking lot and into the store. As I was crossing the street, a couple of cars slowed down to let me pass. I hurried across and made it to the entrance. There were two men walking out of the store as I was going in. I looked up and for a moment made eye contact with them. One of them immediately stopped in his tracks and waited for me to get close enough to him when he looked at me and said he had to let me know how stunning I was and how I “owned” my walk. I sheepishly thanked him and hurried pass into the store. It wasn’t until several minutes later that it hit me—this stranger complimented me! He stopped, waited for me to approach him, and gave me a compliment. And he doesn’t think I walk like a man!! I don’t think he really thought twice about me or anything; I’m sure as soon as he hit the parking lot he forgot I even exist, but his compliment really picked me up. I haven’t been approached like that in years. I don’t even remember the last time it happened before Friday night.
I know this whole post must sound so vapid. I honestly don’t mean it to. It’s not that I care what strangers think of me. But to go from the girl who used to get confused for a model to someone so frumpy and self conscious that she feels she’s not worth the make up in her case or the clothes the pretty girls wear…. It’s hard on the ego. It took me many years to build up my confidence, and only a few short years to completely lose it. I’m trying to find my beauty, inside and outside, again. At my best, I cared enough to eat right and take care of my body. I think that’s what was showing through the entire time. I was happy more, I smiled more, I got out of the house more. I took pride in everything I did. As the weight started piling on, I stopped caring. I stopped caring about the food I consumed, I stopped caring about the gym, I stopped caring about my appearance. Now that I’m starting to care again, I’m finally able to see and feel a difference.