January 22, 2011


If you could have any superpower, superfriends - from edrants dot comwhat would it be? X-ray vision? Telekinesis? Superhuman strength? When I was a little kid, I was pretty shy, and so I always said that I wanted to be invisible. In middle school, I got my wish.

After my parents got divorced, my mom stayed in our house and my dad moved back in with his parents across town. At first my sisters and I went back and forth a few times a week, but it was essentially when my mom started dating again that I decided to live exclusively with my father. My mom was always the one who cooked, so for five months out of the year, dinners with Dad were either barbecued chicken legs, boxes of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, or canned pasta. From mid-spring to late autumn, though, my grandparents were there, and my Nana took up her post in the kitchen.

My father is the sixth of nine children, and despite it being decades after their nest emptied, my grandparents still grocery shopped as if there were a dozen mouths to feed. Slices of American cheese were bought in ten-pound blocks, bread was bought in multiple loaf packs, and butter tubs were never smaller than three pounds. For a kid coping with the emotional stress of having her parents split up and her best friend move halfway across the country, this was perfect. I had always been a bigger girl, but this was the time in my life when I developed my problems with binge eating, and since I especially loved eating secretly, living with my grandparents and their shopping habits made this incredibly easy. With everything in huge quantities, my binges went seemingly unnoticed. super me, making grilled cheeses disappear and then reappear ... on my thighsIt was as if I was invisible, and at that time when I felt weak and out of control, it felt like having a superpower.

Every day I would come home from school and slather four slices of bread with butter while the frying pan warmed up. I'd put in two of the slices, then top each one with three to four slices of cheese and then the other pieces of bread. That wasn't my lunch. It wasn't even my dinner. My afternoon "snack" was around a thousand calories. I would then do my homework and watch television until my dad got home from work, then we'd sit down for dinner and I'd eat a huge portion as if I hadn't eaten in days.

My dad was hurting a lot at that time - the divorce really devastated him - but at the same time, it's painful to think that my powers of invisibility worked on him too. He didn't notice how much I ate or the fact that I gained a hundred pounds in about two years - or at least he never said anything to me. Of course, that was also when he stopped taking care of himself too - specifically, he didn't do anything to control his diabetes - so I am not mad or angry, and I don't blame him. Do I wish he had known better? Yes, of course. If it were possible, I'm sure that he wouldn't hesitate to go back in time with what he knows now and make better choices, maybe preventing his heart attack and all of our food issues and problems with obesity - but at that time, and given the situation, I believe that my dad was doing the best he could.

The problem, though, was that these were my formative years. I was twelve years old, learning skills to prepare me for adulthood, and here I was, perfecting the art of being invisible. I had friends in high school and college, but I spent a significant amount of time alone, either secretly binge eating or lying about/hiding how much I ate. able to duck and weave through buildings without being noticedMoving to Chicago was a dream - no one knew me here, so I could disappear even further into the crowd and keep up my destructive habits without anyone seeming to notice.

So what eventually broke the cycle? I noticed. I noticed that it was getting hard to breathe when I laid down to sleep. I noticed that I didn't feel comfortable in any of my clothes. I noticed that I wasn't happy anymore. I noticed that a huge fraction of my paycheck was being spent at grocery stores and on take-out. And I noticed that even binge eating was starting to lose its charm. I needed to either stop or binge even harder to get the same high. The time was right for me to renounce my superpowers ... and so, I quit.

And let me tell you, if anyone ever asks what superpower I'd like to have, I'm not willing to go back to being invisible. Maybe I'll say I want to fly, and I'll let that translate into faster race paces. Or breathing underwater, because that would just be awesome. But invisibility? We're done. I like being seen these days. I like having lunch with my friends and co-workers and not feeling consumed with thoughts about what I am "really" going to be eating later. These positive feelings and experiences are incredible, and I'd much rather have those than a superpower any day.


Amy said...

I feel like I need to clap - that was such an amazing post - definitely one of your best.

This is such a common question and most people always answer they'd like to fly - but I never know what to answer. I'd rather be Sabrina or be able to teleport places (mainly thinking that because I had to drive 4 hours to come home yesterday).

I'm so happy that you don't want to be invisible anymore - and that you don't blame your father.

I find that in the beginning stages - and when you (when I say you I'm speaking for most people not you specifically) want to change but you don't WANT to do the work to change it's so easy to blame others and make excuses for why we are the way we are. The reality is eventually we have to take responsibility for our actions and remember that we are in charge of the outcome of our life... and once we do that - we can do such wonderful and powerful things and THAT is our superpower... a superpower we all hold within and just need to find - I truly believe you have found it :)

FatAngryBlog said...

Wow, what a post!

Good for you for refusing to be invisible (or to go back to it)!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this... it was pretty inspiring & encouraging to see how you broke through the pain!! You deserve more than being invisible! :)

michelle said...

this post was amazing. thank you for sharing it :)

Katie Warren said...

you made me want grilled cheese...so I made some. lol, but counted the points =)

what interesting is that I have never wanted to be invisible. I think I became so outgoing as a way to be noticed because my looks never attracted any attention.

Anonymous said...

You are already a superhero, and your super power is inspiration. Thanks.

TMLfans.ca said...

Good post! Invisible... For me it'd be the superpower of willpower, something I don't have enough of. Cheers, Rick

Shannon said...

I agree with everyone else - wonderful post!!! Thanks for sharing.

Retta said...

As a kid, growing up fat, I always wanted to be invisible.
This was a very touching post.

jayme @ Losing Half My Weight said...

fantastic post, mary!! d-d-d-dddang. and the internal work you're doing is immense.

on a somewhat flippant note, This American Life did a show on superpowers and John Hodgeman did a piece on the powers of flight vs invisibility that was really quite fascinating. If you haven't heard it, check it out: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/178/superpowers

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to wanting to feel invisible. I still like being relatively invisible most of the time, because it lets me observe everyone else.