Last night I was leaving Victoria’s Secret in the University Mall, tell-tale pink shopping bag filled with underwear smaller than I’d ever thought I’d wear again, when I caught sight of myself in a storefront window. I’m not a mirror-gazer, never have been, so lately when I catch glimpses of myself I am continually surprised by my smaller figure. I walked away with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. These days there is an undercurrent of joy throughout my days and nights due to my recent and hard-won 43 pound weight loss. But in that moment a memory pushed its way into my thoughts, and the force of it made me sit down on the slatted wood benches in the mall’s center.
It must have been about a dozen years ago, my son Carlos was three or four years old. We had been shopping for clothes for him and had just left a child’s clothing store near Victoria’s Secret when I saw a huge woman in the store’s window. Oh, she was so big and looked so very tired. It wasn’t until I saw the small, smiling boy beside her that I realized it was me.
It was as if a massive, dark weight had slung itself around my shoulders and it was all I could do to stand upright. A moan caught in my throat and, still holding Carlos’ hand, I hobbled over to the same wooden benches and fell into them. Then I sat there, packages still clasped in one hand, my son’s in the other, and sobbed, my shoulders hunched, people furtively watching as they walked by. Carlos stared into my face, his eyes frightened, “Mommy? What’s wrong Mommy? Why are you crying?” I couldn’t answer him. What could I have said, anyway? It’s alright, Carlos, Mommy’s just sad because she can’t believe she allowed herself to get this big, this out of breath, this…out of control?
It would take me years of healing and therapy and personal exploration to figure out the answers to a toddler’s simple question: why was I crying? But on that day, the shame of crying in public was nothing compared to the fact that I was scaring my son, and it only made me cry harder.