Fat as a Cocoon
When I was a high school student, I had a summer job working in a plastic bag factory. My job was in quality control. It was my job to test the strength of the seals on the plastic bags -- to ensure that they would be able to hold up under pressure.
One night, I was taking a break in the quality control lab. I was working on my own that night so I had the lab to myself. I remember sitting in the inner office of the lab, flipping through the pages of a magazine as I sipped on a cup of vending machine coffee. I heard the door to the outer lab open. A man in his sixties walked in. He was wearing a red t-shirt and beige pants. I recognized him as the man who was responsible for gluing labels on the cartons in the factory. He didn't have any reason for being in the lab.
As I swivelled my chair sideways so I could see what he was doing, he entered the inner lab office.
"I've got your tape measure," he said. I'll give it back to you if you give me a kiss," he said.
"You can keep it," I replied.
He walked over to the desk, placed the tape measure in front of me, and began kissing my neck.
I twisted away.
He laughed and left the lab.
I reported the incident to the shift supervisor and I was allowed to go home.
The next day, the man who had kissed me was forced to apologize to me.
It was all very confusing.
* * *
When I was a university student in Toronto, I made an appointment to talk to a family physician who came highly recommended by one of my roommates about the stress and anxiety I was experiencing at the time.
At first he seemed great. But, over subsequent visits, things started to get a bit strange. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him.
After making some rather odd comments about my weight ("You've finally reached the Big 2-0-0!" he announced one day), he suggested that I take a particular brand of cold capsules to suppress my appetite. He told me this was how he managed to control his own weight.
While discussing the importance of deep breathing as a means of promoting relaxation, he slipped his hand into my bra so he could feel me breathe.
Finally, midway through a counselling session about stress, he asked me when I had last had a pelvic exam -- and suggested that we do one right then and there. I hopped up on the examining table.
That was my last appointment with the doctor.
By this time, I had finished university and was about to move to another community.
A few years later, I read in the newspaper that this doctor had lost his medical license for professional misconduct -- for sexual improprieties involving three patients.
* * *
I didn't think too much of these two incidents until over a decade later -- after I had lost and regained a significant amount of weight.
When I think back to that time period -- when I had lost 74 pounds -- I realize how vulnerable, how naked, I felt in my new body. I was by no means skinny, but I was much slimmer than I had been and I was having to deal with attention from men for the first time in my adult life.
This new-found male attention freaked me out. I think it may have caused memories of what happened at my summer job and in the doctor's office (experiences that I should more accurately refer to as sexual harassment, perhaps even sexual assault) to surface on some level, even though I wasn't aware of it at the time.
My response? To take my new butterfly self and crawl back inside the much more familiar cocoon of fat.
If I am going to be successful at losing weight and maintaining the weight loss this time, I am going to have to prepare myself for these uncomfortable feelings to surface again.
Fortunately, I am much stronger and much more political than I used to be.
I am strong enough to speak out for the younger me who had yet to find her voice.