It feels like a lifetime ago, but I remember it so vividly. My mom, brother, and I were on a cross country road trip avoiding my dad and the impending divorce. Playing pretend that everything was normal, living out of suitcases, no real plan in mind, hoping from hotels. Normal.
It was nice for a while, traveling around, I was 12 and had no real friends to speak of so this meant I could come back to school “well traveled.” I would be cultured. Seen a swamp before in Louisiana? No, well I have.
It was a lot of tight quarters and us pretending that we were always getting along. Avoid fighting, hold it all in, and pretend that everything was fine.
The hotel was dingy, there were two beds and everything was beige. Everything. We had just had dinner at a nice little restaurant down the road and I was walking from the bed closest to the window to the bathroom and that’s when my mom said it. “Oh look! You have love handles!”
“Love handles!” I thought. What a great thing. Finally this flat body was resembling a woman, right. Love handles. Handles for a boy to hold. Love handles. I liked it. I wanted to hear more about these new weapons of attraction that my body had.
“What are love handles?” I asked. strutting around the room because I was sure I already knew.
“They are fat on your hips,” my mom said as she squeezed my sides. “Once you get them they don’t go away.”
“But every woman has them right?” She couldn’t take away this new power I had, the new power of love handles.
“Fat women.” She said bluntly. “Next you’ll get a belly.”
That was it. That’s all she said as she skipped away to the bathroom to get ready for bed. I was shattered. I looked in the mirror and grabbed at the little amount of skin on my sides, fat. I was fat. I wasn’t gaining curves. It wasn’t anything to do with love or being a woman. It was fat. I was officially fat.
That was the first night I cried myself to sleep over the way I looked.