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All hail the Queen!
My gold dress drapes the floor as I approach, taking my seat beside the King of all creation. He's called me forward, invited me into His throne room. I'm blessed and embarrassed. I haven't seen Him all week. With only a slight tiara adjustment, I stand before the King and step onto a tiny, tiny scale .
"Tracey! Don't you hear this baby crying out here? You've been in that bathroom for, like, an hour! And now you're in there screaming? What's that about?"
The heavenly throne room faded. My velvet gown became a pink terry-cloth bathrobe. The toilet in my secret bathroom, the only one of the six lavatories in my home far enough away from my bedroom for me to feel safe enough to step on a scale, was no longer my throne. The overhead fan, which usually drowned out my screams when I stepped on the scale, must have finally failed. It was my favorite and most dreaded day of the week.
Church with my mother-in-law and weigh-in day wrapped into one morning. And after months of escape in my purple bathroom, my husband had found me out. Was nothing sacred?
"Coming!" I grabbed my throat, realizing that I was still speaking in my regal tone. I paused in front of the mirror and removed the plastic crown my friends gave me for my last birthday. No time to remove the face paint or the body glitter, though. Oh well. After almost two years of marriage, Ryan should know that I'm a little crazy by now, shouldn't he?
Armed with a wet washrag, I scurried out of my secret room, scrubbing my face like a dingy wall as I went. By the time I reached my bedroom on the other side of the house, my husband was snoring, with Lily, my baby daughter, resting on his chest. Isighed with satisfaction at the sight of them. As I tiptoed back to my retreat, though, I groaned at the sight of myself in the hall mirror. Despite my spa treatments, not much had changed.
I'm no queen. I'm not even a princess. I'm just Tracey Blackman, a fat girl from Illinois.
Stop it. You are not fat anymore.
Okay, well, I used to be a fat girl. Sometimes I feel like I still am, like I'm one Oreo away from inflating into a balloon and floating out my window.
I wondered if my husband would notice.
My baby girl would notice, though, since I'd be taking her favorite sources of sustenance, also known as "the girls," which were currently overflowing my nursing bra, with me. (I like that word, sustenance. It's so purposeful. Don't you think?) Since I've got the booby juice and because I know that Ryan really loves me, I'll forgo the Oreo and settle for my life as a slightly lumpy postpartum person. I read that in a parenting magazine over the weekend, that men can get postpartum depression too, so the term should apply to "post-partum people." I canceled my subscription after that, though the laughing fit did keep me from finishing a pint of ice cream that I hadn't realized I was even eating.
That's how I became a fat girl, silently polishing off the ends of cartons and bottoms of boxes like an efficient little machine. My grandmother taught me not to waste anything. Perhaps I internalized that message a little too deeply. I wish she'd lived long enough to see me at this size, let alone the size-six wedding dress packed up in the attic.
I felt like a fake that day in that itty-bitty dress. I still feel like that sometimes, though a lot less often since my dress size has doubled to a twelve. I walk around thinking that any minute somebody is going to find me out and scream, "fat girl undercover!" Once I was on the elevator and a big girl got off and a lady started joking to me about how overweight the woman was. I felt like some kind of spy from the fat side. After several attempts to say something nice without becoming physically violent, I explained that I thought the girl was beautiful. That was one quiet elevator ride. About as quiet as it is in my bathroom now.
After the weigh-in trauma, I was usually in here getting my praise on with Donnie McClurkin or Fred Hammond, but this morning it was just me, God and my scale. And one of us was saying the wrong thing.
Maybe I wasn't standing up straight. Right. That was it. I looked around my royal bathroom for a good laugh, taking in the purple-and-gold decor and crown furnishings. I keep it locked all week and far as I knew, my husband didn't come in here. I sure hoped not. This place was for praying, pampering and fighting the digital dragon also known as my scale.
The whole thing started with collecting princess decor for my daughter's future bedroom. Every little girl wanted to be a princess, right? Then one day I found myself crying after a tongue-lashing from my mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (yes, that's really her name). I decided to claim a throne of my own. Sure it's a gold-plated toilet seat from eBay (it had never been opened, don't worry) but I'm so glad I did it.
Not wanting to take the chance of Ryan waking up again, I locked the door and took a deep breath before climbing on the scale one more time. I leaned forward, looking past the belly my La Leche League leader promised would be gone by now ("Nursing really burns those calories, you'll see!"), so that I could see the numbers, numbers that I never thought I'd see again.
There it was in bright red numbers, making a fool of me. Before I got skinny and got married I would have celebrated a scale that showed me those numbers (it'd probably have a bathroom to itself) even though it would have been defective. But now, a hundred pounds and four karats later, those LCD digits scare me silly, especially with today being Sunday. Though this scale is accurate to the pound Queen Elizabeth (I call her Liz to annoy her) can size me up to the ounce.
"You're almost one-sixty, you know. About a quarter pound from it. You'd better push back from the table, baby. You can't blow up like you did before. You have a family now," she said to me last Sunday on her way to the sanctified section at the front of the church. I'm surprised nobody heard the air hissing out of me, she deflated me so fast.
All that air must have followed me home from church last week and puffed me back up, because despite little sleep, little food and more exercise than I've done in I don't know how long, I gained weight. Again. And what scared me most was that I was starting not to care. When that happens, watch out, because Queen Liz hadn't seen anything yet. I can blow up faster than an air bed when I put my mouth and my mind to it.
I paused for a moment and closed my eyes, picturing myself exploding out of the tiny skirts my mother-in-law keeps buying me and splattering a crowd of people. I guess it's like being an alcoholic or something except I'm faced with the reality of my food addiction at least three times a day.
Though my husband thinks I'm kidding, I've told him more than once about the binge that could be around the corner. It could happen at any moment if I'm not careful. And I'm not usually; careful, that is. Counting thingscalories, points, carbs, pick your poisonmakes me nervous after a few months. I just have to believe that my thinking has changed at this point, even if I am little jumpy most of the time.
I was a much calmer person when I was fat, even if a cardiac event was imminent. Though the pictures of me back then are pretty shocking, I never really felt as fat then as I do now. Looking down at the numbers on the scale, I feel something that I'm not familiar withdesperation.
Last week, I overheard a woman in the grocery store blaming her belly on her son. He was the twenty-year-old pushing the cart! My daughter is six months old and I'm running out of excuses. After hearing that lady, I vowed to lose at least a pound. Instead, I gained two.
Before Queen Liz shrunk me down (or blew me up) to size, I'd actually thought I was looking cute last Sunday at church. This week, I look a hot mess and I know it. Seven nights of a colicky baby crying paired with two server crashes for my Web design clients leave a sistah looking a little tired. Not that Queen Liz will accept that as an excuse. To hear her tell it, all I need is a good hair relaxer, better use of my college degree and of course, one good round of Jenny Craig.
"We don't have to mention it to Ryan or anything. It'd be just between us girls. You can rip off the labels on the meals and tell him that they're TV dinners. By the time he figures it out, you'll be too cute for him to care!" my loving mother-in-law typed above the forwarded e-mail with the latest Jenny Craig special. She'd tucked a Weight Watchers gift certificate in the diaper bag she bought me months before.
Since I never mentioned the gift certificate and obviously didn't use it, the Queen moved on to Jenny Craig, citing a friend's success with the program. "That girl was big as a house before."
Wow, Mom. That makes me feel good, I remember thinking. Yeah, Mom. As evil as she can be, that's what the Queen wants me to call her. The sad thing? I want to call her that. Getting a wonderful husband would have been enough, but getting a mother seemed too good to be true.
This probably would be easier if I had more memories of my mother or if my grandmother was still alive, but I don't and she isn't. I thought I'd worked through all my "Are you my mommy?" issues until I got married and had my own baby girl, my sweet Lily. She looks a lot like my mother, same cinnamon skin and upturned nose. Nobody else recognizes it though since my mother isn't around. What people do notice about Lily is Ryan's eyes and laughing mouth, everything from him, nothing from me. Sometimes my husband works so much that the most I see of him is in Lily's eyes. Except for Sundays.
Sundays are the days when my husband turns off his phone for a few hours and leans into me, whispering funny things in my ear. Sundays are the days when we sit in the pew knee-to-knee, arm-to-arm. Together. A family. So, fat or not, I've got to get moving. Jesus is waiting by my prayer stool, calling me to put on my battle gear, to settle my soul
"Tracey! What are you doing in there? Didn't you hear me before? Lily's hungry. She doesn't want me."
Oh well, so much for soul settling. Duty calls. Ryan had stayed up too late working. I could hear it in his voice.
Lord, don't let it be one of those Sundays.
"Sorry, honey. Here I come." One kick sent the scale back under the sink (which felt good even if it hurt my toe). When I stepped into the hall, they were both there, my husband and my baby. They both looked happy to see me.
Ryan held a finger to his lips and shook his head when I reached for Lily. "You know what? She's okay. Sorry for yelling. I had a long night. Do you forgive me?"
I nodded and caught my breath, surprised as I often am by how good he looks, even in the morning. He is what my friend Dana calls "carelessly handsome," so good-looking that he doesn't even seem to be aware of it. Every woman in the church is aware of it, though, especially me.
He kissed Lily's forehead before kissing me lightly on the mouth and looking me up and down, pausing at all the parts I was trying so hard to hide. "You look so pretty this morning that it doesn't make sense. I'm supposed to be thinking about God, you know. It's the Lord's day. You do know that you're beautiful, don't you?" He took my hand and led meusto the baby's room where he put her in her crib.
Words didn't seem adequate for the moment, so I ran a hand up my husband's arm instead, thinking of how good he was to me, even before I lost the weight. His mother would have flipped if she'd seen me then. Ryan saw me, though, all of me. And he looked at me then just like he was looking at me now. Words came to me in a rush as we headed back to our room. "You look good this morning, too. Maybe we should take a few minutes to thank the Lord for what He's made."
Ryan opened the door to our room and pulled me inside. "I think that's a wonderful idea."
"Babe, can you do something with Lily? I can't drive with her screaming like that. Seriously." Ryan switched lanes and took a back street before stealing another glance at his watch. Late is not in my husband's vocabulary. Unfortunately, when you look up that word in the dictionary, you'll find my face beneath it. Though abstract concepts come easily to me, I'm often easily confused by the basics, like the location of the only skirt I can currently fit into. It's a cute skirt, thank goodness, but since we lingered too long over our thanksgiving for one another this morning, Ryan's probably done with me for a while. At present, he's a man with one missiongetting to church before his mother.
He didn't have to worry about me fighting him on this one. For once, I had his back. I prayed like crazy on the passenger's side, all the while reaching back to comfort Lily in her car seat. Things seemed much easier when she was tiny and still facing the back. I guess there's a limit to how much black leather a kid can look at, because she always fell asleep in spite of herself. Now, with a whole blaring world in front of her, there was a lot to be fussy about.
Her daddy seemed to think so, too. "Oh, come on. Get out of the way. That's not even a parking space. What in the world is wrong with this guy? Can't he see that I'm trying to get around?" Ryan honked the horn and hung his head in disgust.
I did the same, minus the honking. When Ryan's like this, there's no room to give, not a second to spare. If he could, my husband would leave the car right here and sprint to the sanctuary just to keep from being a few minutes late for service. Knowing how painful this is for him and that's it's pretty much my fault, I touched his elbow, made him an offer. "Sweetheart, I'll park and bring the baby in. You go on ahead."
His head snapped up. "You sure?"