You Know, I Used to Get Paid for This

June 23, 2005
About 5 years ago, I wrote a column for this fledgling website and e-zine called “Only Real” – a mag for real (a.k.a. “plus-sized”) women. It was entitled “The Ginger Diaries” and was basically a blog – but a blog in which I got paid $250 per piece for!!!

(Which means that I would have made $79,000 by now if I’d been getting paid to do this!)

$79,000!!!

Well- that dotcom went the way of most dotcoms and people started blogging for free . . . and the rest is history.

Anyway – I’m going to post a little piece I wrote for them –a “mini flashback” if you will. I got $500 for this, since they had to divide it up over 2 weeks:

A New Twist On An Old Cliché

Vacation is always an interesting time for those dealing with body image or the overweight. I guess it’s because you leave the comfort of your own chairs, bed, and other little items that you’ve used to pacify yourself. Vacation brings a new world with it…. The unfamiliar, and often times, the terrifying.

I took a trip to Atlanta with my cousin several weekends ago. Granted, although the prospect of spending money that I didn’t have made me a little nervous, I was relatively looking forward to the trip. We had decided to see as much of the city as possible, spend time with an old friend of ours, and visit Six Flags Over Georgia, a massive theme park packed with thrill rides, cartoon characters, and fried foods. What could be more fun?

Yet, I began to have my doubts on my miniature shopping spree the day before we left. I decided that I needed a decent pair of shorts to wear to the park. Much to my chagrin, I had gone UP a size and most of the items looked atrocious on me. Of course, the shopping horror is nothing new to me, so I didn’t sweat it too much. I even ended up getting a very great price on a pair of very cute, very trendy jean shorts.

As we left on our “four-thirty-ish train to Georgia” the anxiety began. I made a small attempt to get out of the theme park gig.

“Hey, maybe you to should go and I’ll stay at the hotel and relax. The third person always has to ride alone and I really don’t have a lot of money…”

She eventually convinced me to make the trip.

We arrived at the park after lunch the next day and I was a bit excited, I admit. Looking up at all of the rides and hearing the screams in the distance took me back to childhood vacations and happy times with family, friends, and church youth groups.

And yet, the gnawing ache stirred in the pit of my stomach. And it wasn’t hunger either, mind you. I would later come to learn, from my very good friend Liz, that this pain is nothing new to women of our proportions. I wish that I could have spoken to her pre-nightmare.

The lines weren’t even that long, can you believe? So we hopped into the one for the Georgia Cyclone- a wooden giant that rattled one to the bones. David wasn’t riding because of his recent back surgery, so it had worked out for the best.

Soon we were standing in the tiny lines that line up with each coaster car. As I looked at the seats, a panic began to rise. No. No….. Surely they make these things for all sorts of people.

I saw a woman whom I guessed to about my size squeezing in and gripping her boyfriend’s hand for courage as the coaster sped onto the tracks.

My cousin read my mind. “If she can get on it, you can.”

Then the moment of truth came. As I bent to sit, the unthinkable occurred. My left hip had slid into place, but my right one wouldn’t budge over the divider in the middle. I was TOO BIG! I struggled for a moment, wondering if somehow I weren’t doing something right…but the awful truth remained.

So, very matter-of-factly I said to her, “I just can’t fit.”

Then I hastily and quite gracefully (weird considering the situation) exited the ride and slowly walked down the wooden steps to wait at the bottom. I didn’t look back to see if anyone was watching me. I just kept walking.

That walk was a long one. My heart was pounding and the back of my neck was on fire…that’s what happens when excruciatingly painful or embarrassing things happen to me.

I sat at the bottom on a bench and bit my lip as a lone tear trickled down my plump rosy cheek and onto the leg of my brand new gigantic jean shorts. My thoughts raced along with the coaster in the background. How could I have let this happen to my self? This is all my fault. I knew this was going to happen.

I saw my cousin approaching and dried my eyes.

I barely fit into that tiny thing. It was really a small ride.”

“Yeah…well….”, I said.

After that horrible event, I decided that I wouldn’t press my luck on any of the other rides. I told them I would do some shopping while they had their share of fun.

“Why don’t you ride any of the wet rides?”

I knew that they were thinking the wet rides were usually big and accompanied giant people such as myself.

“Wet denim and fat thighs rubbing together in the hot sun do not mix, “ I replied with a snarl. I wanted to smile and laugh it off and make fun of myself, but this time I just couldn’t. It had gone beyond silly, unfortunate, or profound. This time it was just painful. I was lacerated to the quick. (And in my condition, that cut has to be awfully deep… HAHA…okay so I haven’t lost my sense of humor. But still…)

I walked the park alone and wondered what people thought of me as they passed. Were they horrified? Was I a freak? I had lost all sense of who I was. I looked at other women, some bigger than myself, and felt an urge to ask them what rides they were able to fit on. I didn’t of course. I sat on a bench next to a very overweight child for a little bit and wanted to put my arms around her, and cry, and tell her I understood how she was feeling, but decided against it.

Then a very funny thing happened. True to my promise, I did do a little shopping at one of the cheesy little shops that sells items you’ll never use, wear, or display again. The sun was a little bright that day and I needed a pair of sunglasses. (I may have let myself go, but I’d be damned if I was going to get crow’s feet… HAHA…)

And then I saw them; the representation of that old cliché. They had rose-colored lenses with black square rims. I wondered if the world really did look a little more beautiful through them, and so I put them on. I really couldn’t tell much of a difference at first, but I liked the way they looked on me, and so I plunked down 10 bucks and bought them.

I put them on and began walking around again. It wasn’t until I took them off when I used the bathroom that I noticed the change. Boy! It did make a difference. The rosy glow was abruptly eradicated by the garish green glare of the fluorescent bathroom and what everyone else saw as “normal” through their own pair of eyes.

And then the unthinkable happened.

I laughed.

In spite of all the misery and embarrassment, a cheap pair of sunglasses and a silly old cliché had somehow managed to turn the frown upside down. And then I laughed at myself for laughing at something so ridiculous. It soon became a vicious cycle of laughter, so to speak.

I didn’t cry after that. In fact, I chalked it up to that dreadful list of experiences that we sometimes have to face in life.

The rain came and relieved me of my boredom. As thousands of visitors flocked to the exits, our little group of three left along with them, our trip cut (mercifully) short.

I don’t think I took those glasses off until the long after the sun had gone down.

10:13 a.m. ::
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