It started small—having to catch my breath after going up the stairs, needing to recline my car seat back an inch…going up a size. “You might want to take some weight off,” said my general practitioner during my annual, never once lifting his eyes from the clipboard.
I looked down and surmised it wasn’t that serious. I mean, I could still see my feet. So, I did what everyone does: nothing. I mean, I told myself I would eat out less, exercise more, switch to diet soda. And I did all those things for about a week before going back to my routine of asking for extra bread at restaurants and late-night drives to Sonic.
It was a few weeks before I took my best friend out to dinner for her birthday. On the way home, I began to have that feeling, that “Oh my god I might need to pull over” kind of feel‐ ing. There was still a good amount of light outside, so I hit the gas, ran a couple of reds, and came to a screeching halt in my driveway before cursing myself for having so many keys. Finally through the door, I ran up the stairs to the bathroom and crash landed on the seat when I heard it.
The noise was loud and unforgiving. It echoed against the mirror, the tiles, the turquoise-tinted Mason jar bathroom set I’d bought off Etsy. I hoped the seat had simply slid off the bowl, and was in danger of disconnecting from the hinges, but I knew better. I lifted my bum and saw a crack in the white porcelain. I stared at the split for what seemed like a long while, wondering how my body was capable of fracturing something so strong and durable, and decided it was time to change.
I purchased portion control plates, bought a Ninja blender, and searched my room for the Fitbit I had long since cast away in lieu of charging the battery. But mostly, I wondered how it had gotten this far, how I’d let this happen.
All advice seemed to begin with the word “just.” Just eat smaller portions, just cut carbs…just fix it. At the core of these helpful hints was a plea. A plea from friends and family to make myself familiar to them. I was no longer Lauren—I was Fat Lauren, Heavy Lauren, Have You Seen Lauren Lately?
As a plus-size woman, I am labeled as someone who doesn’t care if they live or die, someone who is too lazy to “do anything about the problem,” someone undesirable. I found myself before the mirror asking why this body was unacceptable? Why did this body need to be dominated, managed, erased? But I found no answers, no forgiveness—only the echo of the porcelain cracking, wondering if I could ever unite the halves of myself that had come apart.
“Echo” is an excerpt from Women Under Scrutiny, an honest, intimate examination of the relationships we have with our bodies, hair, and faces, how we’ve been treated by the world based on our appearance—and how we have treated others. The women who created the serious, humorous, and courageous work in this anthology—women ages seventeen to seventy-six—represent an array of cultures and religions from across the United States. They are an extraordinary group of women who all share one thing: the ability to tell the truth.
Women Under Scrutiny grew out of Randy Susan Meyers’ new novel, Waisted, the story of two women who torture themselves and are brutalized by others around weight issues, who get caught in the war against women, disguised as a war against fat.
Lauren J. Sharkey is a Korean American writer from Long Island, NY. Her debut novel. Inconvenient Daughter, is inspired by her experience as an interracial adoptee. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Dear Adoption, Blind Faith Books’ I Am Strength collection, and others. Learn more at ljsharks.com.