When I don’t blame myself, I attribute it all to three things I knew to be true: three. I list them not in order of importance, but just as they come, which may be important. But, then again, it probably isn’t.
When I was growing up, I didn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t dream of white gowns, a smiling husband, baking the best banana bread or walking the dog. The fat girl doesn’t get the boy. She doesn’t get the wedding. She certainly doesn’t get the happily ever after. I knew this absolutely and irrevocably at six years of age.
Later, I had a babysitter Jenny. She was a freckled blond with thick thighs and a doughy face. Once, when she should have been playing Candy Land with us, her boyfriend came over. It was the first time I’d seen a fat girl with a boyfriend. The world was upside-down. It quickly righted itself when she sat in his lap and pawed at him. Of course. That a man would put up with a porky princess if she put out- would in fact deal with just about any flaw for a bit of action- made sense.
Now you think I’m a liar. You cannot see how a child would make that connection. That brings us to the second thing I knew to be true. I’d known, from such a young age, it seemed I must have always known, the things men and women could do together. Yet, I distinctly remember when mom and I had “the talk.” Though I was five, probably too young for a frank discussion about bedroom activities in a Pizza Hut dining room, you musn’t blame my mother. She was pushed to it. I pushed her to it; I was always doing that. I began with a pronouncement.
“Mom!” I half whined-half shouted across the table, “You know what Brandi told me? She told me a boy sticks his privates inside a girl’s privates and PEES IN YOU and then you have a baby!”
The funny thing is, while she wearily cleared up the details, I wasn’t surprised. Not at all. Not even puzzled or disgusted. I remember it seemed exactly right. As if I knew that but had just forgotten. As if I had always known. I would experience that same feeling again and again. The first time I was kissed. The first blow-job I gave. When I finally did have sex the first time, with a boy who spoke no English in a shower with no curtain. Nothing was ever surprising. No, it was all eerily and hauntingly familiar. It was all deja vu.
The third thing I knew was that the love of men was a fleeting and temporary thing. No man could ever love me, not for long. It wasn’t their fault, really, even. You couldn’t blame the men. You see it’s because I was unlovable. As time went on my vocabulary grew with the ways it could be stated: fat, ugly, loser, irritating, lazy, boring, white; so many ways to say unlovable. So many names for me.
Those are the things I knew, the world as I understood it to be. Yet, there is that one niggling factor that came before, during, and after; partial and undisclosed; which I did not know then. Which even now, I cannot be sure I know. It lives in the shadows. I have tried to know. I have seen glimpses. The shadow of a man’s face. A basement room with a piano. A whispered voice. But when fear grips me, when my heart starts racing and my stomach lurches, I reach for the pack of Kools, I fumble to the fridge at two a.m. and I numb it. So I still, still, do not know. But, O Lord, I have my suspicions.