I work with a Big Woman

July 20, 2010

I work with a Big woman.

Like probably above 300 pounds big.

Obesity #1
Creative Commons License photo credit: Spree2010 (that’s not her, by the way!)

She reminds me so much of myself at my heaviest – it hurts me deeply to watch her.

She’s great at her job.  A really nice person, and a great model for communication – she manages to say her point effectively without being offensive, and is often great at reframing and repeating an objection.  I don’t know much about her outside of work, but in the office she’s always smiling and friendly.

She has fabulous hair that she take a lot of care on. She has the nicest handbags of anyone I know (including one I almost covet, but I refuse to spend that much on a bag).  She wears fun bright sweaters. And huge black pants that I know are easy-to-travel-with (and that are no doubt selected because they hide as much as possible)

I know, because this was me for a long time.

My weight and size was never quite the same, but the situations at my heaviest about a decade ago.

  • Telling everyone “I’ll take the next one” when everyone else sprints for a train
  • The look of horror on her face when she sees an elevator is broken & it means 4 flights of stairs with her suitcase
  • Looking around for a seat that looks sturdy enough to hold her at some outdoor café with flimsy plastic chairs
  • Not fitting into airplane seats, armchairs, booths
  • A beet-red face because she’s crazy hot but dares not take off the sweater and show her arms

Oh yeah, I know it all so well.

I feel her pain

I feel her pain.  I know how hard it is to try to put on this veneer of confident, competent professional when your body is betraying you and shouting from the rooftops “I am out of control in something really important!”[pullquote]“I am out of control in something really important!”[/pullquote]

No matter how strong her professional qualifications and experience, her size reveals a deep dissatisfaction with something in her life, and an inability to tackle at least some of her problems.

  • In contrast to her professional image, her bulk undermines her.
  • The smile seems a little forced, some of the professional presence removed.

Is it harsh? Maybe.

Is it true? Probably.

Was it me? Absolutely.

Is it now?

That’s a good question.  At 188 pounds I’m still perceived that way by many people.  I see the approving eye of our thin fitness-minded colleagues when I order fish at a dinner or turn down dessert.  I see the look they give when she accepts hers.  But other than my physical size still being outside the societal norm here in Europe, that’s not me anymore.  I can run to the train, take the stairs, fit in (almost) any seat.  My progress is real.  I still have a ways to go, but my smile is genuine.

The Fattest Person in the Room

Her presence does spare me one thing – I don’t need to worry about being the heaviest person in the room.

But I wish she wasn’t either.

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