(part 2 — you can read part 1 here)
I started into my working career while I was still in college. Technically, I started working while I was in high school, but the work I’m talking about is outside of retail and on a more permanent basis than doing part-time work at my mother’s office.
I took a job via a contracting company, working onsite at the National Institutes of Health. It was one of the first places I’d worked that required I wear more business-like clothing. The office I joined was small, both in size and in staffing. I was one of four people crammed into an area filled with large metal desks and overflowing bookcases full of file folders. Part of my job was transcribing keywords in a database so that the folders could be extracted based on their locating system once someone typed a word into the keyword database. It wasn’t an exciting job, except that it was one of my first full-time jobs outside of working in my mother’s office. I did my best to find appropriate job-wear, which at the time consisted of many skirt-and-top sets, or skirt and blouses. I may have had a few pairs of dress slacks, too, but in my head I remember the many many skirts and blouses. The other three people I worked with were men, one of which was older–the manager–one of which would was probably my age, and one who was probably within 5-10 years of my age. The last one, he was the one who was the first to really flirt with me. Ever. Our desks were right across from each other separated by a small area allowing a walkway to the manager’s desk. But the manager didn’t spend much time in the office with us, and the other guy was a shy nerd who didn’t talk much. So my desk sat facing the flirty guy, and he flirted with me pretty much daily. I had no idea what to do with myself. I remember laughing a lot. Giggling, I suspect. I was still fat at the time, probably mid-range between my lightest and my heaviest. This job was also during a summer and I remember I tried to get to work very early in the morning so I wouldn’t sweat in the heat and humidity when I was walking the long distance from the parking lot to my office.
After I was moved to another location for that contract, I had no contact with Mr. Flirty. And nothing ever came of all that mad flirting he did. I suspect he flirted with a lot of people…he was that kind of charmer. But at the time, I didn’t care. Shortly after the move to a location even further away from home (which required commuting by car AND subway AND walking), I quit that contractor because I was concerned about how they were charging for time. I worried that they were screwing the government based on the things I was seeing and hearing. I didn’t want to be involved when they got audited. The next job I remember having after that was in an office full of women. The office atmosphere was casual–we often walked around barefoot, many of the women wore shorts to work–and I became the systems administrator and technology support for the whole group. It ranged from like 7-10 people over the years I was there. But I enjoyed the job because I loved the people I worked with both in the office and with the vendors we dealt with. While I worked there, I went from full-time at college and part-time at work, to full-time at work and part-time at college. I also met my husband-to-be during this time. And I moved into my first townhouse during this time.
As I mentioned briefly in part 1, I was traversing the brave new world of the pre-internet, and internet. I was meeting strangers online, via BBS and AOL (back in the day when AOL was a dial-up specialty service). I flirted with lots of people, because I made myself out to be the person I most wanted to be. I wanted to be thin and fantastic and flirty and sexy. Since I didn’t know any of these people I was talking to online, I could make myself out to be whoever and whatever I wanted. I ended up meeting a couple of the people IRL (in real life). They were rarely who they made themselves out to be, just like me. One of the people I met on a BBS was my hub. When I realized I wanted to meet some of these people, I started working out. I joined a big old gym–one of those ones that takes lots of $$$$ directly out of your bank account every month–and went faithfully. I walked on a treadmill in spandex, I jogged on their indoor track, I used a bike, I used the weight equipment. I watched what I was eating–meaning I limited my food–and I lost weight. When I finally allowed myself to meet hub after having talked and argued and flirted online for months, I was at my lowest weight in my adult lifetime. Even so, I was still fat, there is no question. But for me, I felt curvy and sexy…mostly. Like, if I dressed in the right clothes and made sure my hair was perfection. But there was no hiding the fat.
When I met hub for the first time, he was a tall, skinny guy with long blond hair. And when he didn’t freak out at how I looked–specifically at my weight–I opened myself up to the possibility of dating him. Then I dated him. Then we started going out regularly, which meant a lot of eating out. Which also meant not so much time for the gym. I canceled my membership. My weight stayed stable for a short period of time…enough time in which to meet more of those people from online and show them my curves. Then it went downhill. I gained pretty much all the weight back I’d lost dieting and working out. When hub and I got married eight years later, I was at my highest weight to that point. My pictures from my wedding? Well, they were mostly ruined by the crap-ass photographer…but the ones that came out? I don’t like the way I looked. Let’s leave it there.
Within a year of our marriage, I got sick with the beginnings of my first chronic illnesses. And with that came sedentarism. WTF, is that a word? I became very sedentary due to being sick. And I gained even more weight. And our eating habits were bad the whole time we dated and after we got married. We were both working good jobs, so we had extra income, and our favorite thing to do was go out to eat. And we did it often. And it showed on both of us. Over the years that I was struggling through the chronic illnesses, I was more sedentary than I’d ever been, and my weight continued to go up. Even when I was able to be more active, I couldn’t keep myself on an exercise program and I pretty much ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and as much as I wanted.
A couple of years after my chronic illnesses developed, I became active in the plus size community, and I felt more comfortable in my skin and my size. Or maybe better said, I stopped thinking about me being overweight and I considered myself to be just ME. I met and talked to people who felt good as they were, and I became involved with people (long distance, mostly) who were happy with how they looked no matter what size they were. I also realized that some of the things I was doing with my life were making a difference in other peoples lives, no matter that I was fat.