They say when you are crossing cultures, one of the last things successfully to translate is humour. Maybe that’s why I never really minded when, during every potluck dinner at my London Church, a Brazilian friend would tease me when I went back for seconds saying, “One for you, one for the worm,” and everybody else in the multicultural group would laugh. Everybody got it. I guess tapeworms are universal? I don’t know, but I could really “put the food away,” as they say, and I never gained a pound. Along with a naturally high metabolism, probably partly triggered by an uptight personality, I had no car and so I walked for miles every day. Really really fast. There was no way I was getting fat–the food couldn’t catch up.
When I moved back Stateside, I wasn’t overly happy about it, and my intense personality internalised a lot of the culture shock so that eating became a problem. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat. I just couldn’t. I’d feel ravenous, start eating, get to maybe the fifth bite, and then not be able to stomach another thing. I spent the summer drinking Ensure (which is really not how you want to spend a summer, believe me), and that may be what kept me from wasting away entirely. I was at least ten pounds underweight at any given time. I didn’t realise how gaunt I was until some years later when I had filled out to a more healthy weight and looked at photos from that period of time. They’re kind of alarming, really.
Sometimes it’s a little irritating when one’s weight troubles are the opposite of most people’s, because nobody can understand that they’re troubles. Also, there’s not much sympathy out there for people who feel like whining, “Woe is me–I’m ten pounds underweight.” Nobody ever joins in the pity party–except to start their own: “I wish I had your problem!” Sometimes people would say, “Just wait ’til you hit thirty. Your metabolism will slow right down.” Thing was, I was already thirty-five.
I don’t know the science behind it–maybe there isn’t any–but I promise you that I was physically incapable of getting up to my optimum BMI until I had cancer surgery. Tumour out, and all at once my weight rose and rose and what do you know? I weighed what any six-foot-tall woman should expect to weigh. And I maintained it. I was very excited.
Four years later, though, and I’m pushing forty, and now suddenly I’m saying to myself, “I wish I had that other problem.” I think I really kind of smugly thought I was going to get away with a high metabolism and a svelt figure for as long as I lived. Guess not. The upside? Trousers that were always slightly in danger of falling down around my ankles fit much better now. Or they did. They might be getting a little tricky to button and zip as of the last month or so. The downside(s)? 1. All the buttons in my blouses and sweaters are starting to look a little strained. 2. I can’t just chow down on whatever item I fancy whenever I feel the slightest bit peckish. 3. Suddenly aerobic exercise seems a bit more necessary than, “Skinny people can be out of shape, too”–and I have less opportunity to do it. 4. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I feel sort of wistful when I think of cutting back on the beer.
Some people might posit that all this happened since I got married. Actually, I think the metabolism and all that started to go downhill beforehand. All the same, though I will probably never totally lose my uptight edge, I do think I’m getting a little more serene since merging lives with my Paul. I don’t think it’s accurate to blame him if my figure disappears within the year (I suspect we’d both be disappointed). But after all, I guess marriage pleases me, and there are way worse things in life than being fat and happy.