How to Look Good Fat
Viewing yourself through the eyes of a good friend
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
My friend Susan Sobo and I are heading to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to relive our past. Before we had four kids under five between us, we’d start our Hamptons season with a week of drinking, dancing, flirting and shopping. In those days our biggest problems were tan lines.
Aside from the occasional, quick martini, it’s been years since a proper catch up with my oldest pal. Friends since we were four, we’ve been through a lot together: from landing the two (male) leads in the sixth grade Shakespearean play, to undergrad mayhem at Boston College, to moving back home with our parents to start our careers in New York.
Back then we even commuted together. We dubbed our morning ride “train therapy.” Forgoing the papers, we’d discuss the real news instead. Everything from our annoying parents (“Why do they always need to know when I’m coming home at night?!?”) to the boyfriends we tried on like 80s power suits.
Today, 20 years later, it’s no different. As we drive through the t-storms on our way out to the shore, we debrief each other on the details of our current sagas, from my dissolving marriage to Sobo’s struggles to raise two kids in New York City. We take turns listening, offering solace, and cracking each other up with some random personal trivia (like her college squeeze with the Flock of Seagulls ‘do and the cologne you could taste).
“Sobo,” I say, summoning my nerve to divulge my most embarrassing issue.
“Yeah, Melly?” she says.
“I’m fat again,” I admit with shame.
Fatness is a condition that has plagued me on and off my entire life. Far from being a superficial concern, my weight is a clear indicator of how well I’m doing on the inside. Like a “Student Driver” sign, it’s a shameful billboard to the world about how unhappy, out of control, and in need of comfort I really am.
“You look great!” Sobo says, “What are you talking about?”
“I’m a size up from last summer,” I admit. “Nothing fits. I feel miserable. And why do I care about my extra pounds?” I ask. “It’s not like anyone but me cares.”
“That’s not true,” she says. “We are judged by how we look, and we owe it to ourselves to look as great as we can every morning we head out that door and face the world. Feeling good about yourself is like armor.”
This clicks for me. I deserve to feel good about myself, and to find the time to put some effort into that. Pretty doesn’t just happen magically. It requires grooming, shopping, organization, and time.
“Melly?” Sobo says.
I await her profound comment.
“You need to get your windshield wipers fixed,” she says. “That film of water makes it really hard to see.”
“Maybe we should pull over until the rain subsides,” I say, pointing to the outlet mall on the side of the highway.
Within a nanosecond, we are speed shopping at Polo, J. Crew, Banana, Kate Spade, and BCBG. Sobo, at once bossy and patient, instructs me to model all potential purchases.
We are like modern day swashbucklers on a treasure hunt, scouring the heavily discounted clearance racks. It’s a productive process. Under my personal stylist’s scrutiny, I procure an entire summer wardrobe including a raincoat.
“No matter what you’re wearing, if you put on a trench coat you’ll look pulled together,” Sobo states approvingly.
She’s like the older sister I never had. Fiercely independent and resourceful, she can out-ski and out-drink any guy I know. But the thing that I really admire about my friend is that her weight has never dictated how she feels about herself. No size four, Sobo is none-the-less a long and lean stunner, despite the fact that her weight fluctuates like most women.
“How come you don’t care whether you’re fat or thin?” I ask.
Like a guy, she shrugs and admits, “I don’t know.”
We stow our retail trophies in the trunk, and Sobo pulls out the bag of appetizers from the night before. We snack on baguettes, cheese, chips and dips.
“Susan, you realize that we’re actually tailgating at an outdoor mall,” I say.
“Just like old times,” she says with her mouth full.
That’s the thing about friendship. It feels like pulling on that comfortable pair of jeans, the ones that are broken in, faded to perfection, and hit you in all the right places.
And then I get it: Sometimes we all need is to get our windshield wipers replaced, and I’m talking about the ones inside our heads, distorting our vision.
The secret to looking great when you’re fat is to simply view yourself through the eyes of a close friend.
Read Melina’s last blog: Sad