The thought of an invisibility cloak whisks me away to the fun and exciting world of British author J. K. Rowling. In times of trouble, the gang from Harry Potter would pull out the trusty invisibility cloak and hide from the monster that was lurking in the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry, Hermione and Ron always got the best of the beast in those novels; at the end of the day the cloak always came off and the kids continued on their carefree and happy way. Perhaps, it might have been a great tool to have in my own arsenal, not only as a teen in high school, but also in my early adult dating days, allowing me to hide whenever convenient for my own purposes.
The truth of the matter is, invisibility isn’t quite as funny when its forced upon you as a reaction to a societal stereotype. In this case, we aren’t talking about that cloak that was featured in the successful movie series, but instead an invisibility bloat. Let me explain and share my experience with you.
Poor old hubby had the hardest time getting used to it, having lived most of his life with what society considers the norm, the glass is half full on good days/the glass is half empty on days not so good. Where as, when he met me, and in my version of life, most often than not I choose to smile. Each and every day. Even to this day, he sometimes has to think twice. I say something completely benign and he slowly looks my way, narrowing his eyes. Asking me…
“What do you mean by that?”
and then bracing as if the ‘glass is empty’ attitude is going to violently erupt into a complaining, unhappy version of his wife that he has never known. Hubby, its ok, you are truly safe. I mean exactly what I say, no back doors and no hidden agendas. Just me.
I remember early on in my son’s life, explaining to him on a day that he didn’t want to go to school, that he had two choices every morning. To get up, smile and make the best of every day, or to be miserable and go through your day with an ‘Oh, woe is me, everything is wrong!’ attitude. Luckily, he took the lesson well and is doing his own version of, life is truly what you make it.
Now, I realize that sometimes life throws you curve balls and its impossible to always be full of rainbows, unicorns and sparkles. Sometimes these curve balls may even be of your own doing. But that doesn’t mean you become any less of a person because things are not perfect, right? You’re not automatically invisible when you make a bad choice, are you?
Most of my life, I’ve been thin and healthy. I know what it is to walk into a dress shop, try on anything that I want and look frikkin awesome. I know the awkward, almost embarrassing feeling of walking down a beach and having other wives check to make sure their spouse wasn’t checking me out, as if I was a husband-eating woman on the prowl to break up happy marriages. I know what its like to have people open doors for you and make eye contact with you as you pass them by. I know what its like to open your mouth and have a crowd hang on your every word, as if you were the best thing since sliced bread.
I’ve also been overweight. I’m embarrassed to say that because of my own doing, I know how it feels to go into a regular clothing store to find that nothing fits you anymore. I truly hurt when the clerks gave me the quick up and down and silently judged me because of the shape of my body. I remember how confusing my loving husband was, when I asked him to go get us food at a food court. All because I didn’t want to be the fat girl carrying our meal, simultaneously making heads turn and people ‘tsk’, that I shouldn’t be eating ‘THAT’ at the size of me. I know the embarrassment as a friendly person, when I smiled at strangers, only to have them look past me as if I don’t exist, making me a mere shadow of the person that I used to be. I got used to opening my mouth and having other people talking right over my own words, condemning them and me to scurry off to the corner where the fat folks live.
Through the wonderful world of Ketogenic living, I have started to turn my life around, and I now know the reality of a shrinking body and its downright weird. Suddenly, as my waist and my pants size shrink and I become a more socially acceptable size, doors are starting to open for me again. Its not only that am I able to walk away from plus sized clothing and into regular stores, its more than that. People are looking at me different. Now people are looking at me, like I’m emerging from my cocoon a brand-new butterfly. As though I’ve stumbled out of a fog or a mist and are now stand in full colour for the world to see. Men are nodding at me in acknowledgement of my reborn curves, not caring that I only have eyes for hubby, but instead taking their chance to brazenly and openly flirt. Acquaintances are now eager to engage in a conversation with me, those who for years, walked by me as if I was wearing Harry’s cloak. Alas, I wasn’t, I was there all along. I was wearing my own invisibility bloat.
Its truly eye opening for me. I am the exact same person, but because the outer shell of me was not perfect, somehow, I was reduced to less of a person. It’s a horrible feeling. As much as my cup overfloweth every day, it makes me stand back and look at the world as if I’ve finally found a slight tarnish in that silver lining.
In case I need to point it out for you, this article isn’t about me at all. At the end of the day, I’m a big girl and to be honest, I’m not one bit comfortable being the centre of attention. Its about our invisible fellow man. It’s the overweight girl who walks onto the bus on a hot summers day looking for a seat. People already on the bus avoid eye contact because they don’t want that big girl sitting next to them. All she wants is to sit down after working a 12-hour shift, before she gets home and has to tidy the house, do laundry and cook dinner for her kids. Its about the man who sits with his head hung, begging as the subway passengers pass by on the way to their train. Most people don’t have the time or the humanity to look past the wrinkled clothes and see the person behind the sad eyes. You want to get to your warm home and dinner and all he wants is a dollar so he can get a warm coffee to help him keep the cold at bay. Its about the new family in your town family who just moved from another Country. They don’t look the same because they have different customs and dress differently and people from the town are steering clear of them, because, well they’re ‘outsiders’. If you could step inside this family’s shoes, you would know the terror they felt having to live in their war-torn country where they feared for their families lives. You would know how scared they were to have to give up everything they knew and move to a brand-new place where they knew nothing about the customs, religions and sometimes even not even the language. These are all people. Fellow humans who, for the most part just want to get through their day. People who have feelings and commitments and family, just like you and I.
The moral for me, and hopefully for some of you, it to never judge a book by its cover. I’ve always been a ‘live and let live’ type of person, one who doesn’t judge my fellow humans. But this shrinking/re-emergence is opening my eyes to a whole new level of people who walk the earth and are not seen. Its not just the overweight people, it’s the people who are not what society deems to be perfect: people with religious or racial difference, varying social classes, people with disabilities. Anyone who is not ideal, physically perfect or the same.
I will not be invisible any longer. My goal is to step up my game and to go out of my way to treat all people with decency and respect. No one person has the right to judge or condemn another people. We all deserve the basic respect and kindness that we would like bestowed upon us. We ARE all equal. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, or a nod. Sometimes its a quarter in a cup and simply asking if they’re ok. Other times it giving up your seat to allow another to sit. Its about respect and kindness. Its not a lot to ask.
I promise, whatever your colour, size or shape. I will see you, and I will smile.
I ask you to do the same.