Last summer I found myself trapped, struggling up three flights of concrete stairs imbedded in the side of a hill, no arm railing to hoist myself up with, and a whole high-school band marching their way up the stairs behind me. I fought each step, pushing down on the tops of my thighs with my hands, trying to propel myself off my own weight, silently pleading with my body to move faster. I could not do it.
It is a moment I am not proud of. I gave up, moving off to the side, disappointed in my inability, certain a whole stadium of students, alumni, faculty, and fans had their eyes trained on me. After all, I went down those stairs knowing full well I would have to go back up. As the band passed me and the cadence of their drums faded, I made my way to the top, finally able to stretch the knife-like cramps out of my legs, wanting only to be somewhere the oppressive humidity was not.
As I pen this column, we are somewhere between New Year's resolutions and the romance of Valentine's Day and I'd like to share a story of love with you. It's about the one person who stood by my side holding my hand while the cramps and tears subsided, the same person who removed a door in the hallway of our 60+ year old home so I'd have more room to walk, and the same person who phoned me at work just the other day to tell me he had found "it." "I was in an empty office in my building, and their IT was," he explained, and I knew by the sound of his voice that "it" was something special, "so I picked it up and carried it to my office." "It" was the first one he'd seen in a building of wicker furniture and narrow-armed chairs. An armless chair now sits in my husband' s office, waiting for my next visit.
At first glance you might, as a close friend confessed, find our difference in size to be startling. Just one of my thighs is 8 inches larger around than his 32-inch waist. We both order clothing from special catalogs, mine from the supersize catalogs and his from a company called Short Sizes. And when we bought our first new car together, we had to find one where the seat goes far enough back to accommodate my tummy, hips, and thighs, and far enough up to accommodate his height. Sometimes our size difference plays to our advantage. We fit cozily into a two-seat section on planes (with the arm between the seats up, of course), and we make a great duo when we're moving furniture. I push, and he walks backwards and crawls around in the small spaces. We're also pros at removing huge vines from our overgrown yard. He just loosens enough of it so I can wrap it around my waist and I walk backwards, pulling it out of the tree. (Yes, I hit the ground the first time a vine snapped loose, but I've learned my lesson since then!)
He could probably write a book about what it like being married to a supersize woman. He takes care of things that are harder for me--like vacuuming, carrying the groceries in, mowing the yard, and carting things up into the attic; he's repaired broken beds and broken chairs, and he didn't even complain when I trashed his bathroom scale by stepping on the side of it. I do things that aren't as physically demanding, like grocery shopping, preparing our meals, and researching information for whatever our latest project or purchase is. He's also great with my reach problems--he retrieves things that roll under the bed, scratches unreachable spots, even tends my toes. And sometimes while we're lying in our spacious king-size bed (another item we purchased together), he jiggles my tummy and thighs, just to watch the ripples.
He has seen me through several optimist New Year's resolutions of "this is the year I'm going to whittle myself down," and he's seen the fallout from those periods of loss and regain. I am twice the size I was when we met, and nearly three times his size. This probably explains why he finds my enthusiastic hugs overwhelming. He once made a casual observation that I weigh more than our new 26 cubic foot refrigerator, a statistic he found remarkable. I have to admit it gave me a fresh perspective on my size as well. No, I cannot label him a Fat Admirer, but he is an Elizabeth Admirer. He tells me our marriage is the best thing in his life, and that he loves me for a lifetime, no matter what size I am. He laughs with me, he has helped me redefine success in my life by something other than numbers on a bathroom scale, he encourages and applauds my personal growth, he even shares his chocolate with me. He is the love of my life. Not bad for a relationship that began in the pages of the classified ads.
Oh, and speaking of New Year' s Resolutions, I find myself making only one these days--to Live Large. I hope you'll join me. ß