It was a Friday morning. Determined to have a good day, I woke up and told myself, like every other Friday, I am going to get all of my work done, go to the gym to run for 15 minutes during my lunch break, get a bottle of Coca Cola, and hide in my office to drink it.
I saw I missed a call from my sister-in-law from the night before. I called her back even though I only had half an hour to pack my lunch and leave the house for work. But, hey, it's a happy Friday; I can loosen up a bit. Besides, talking to your family is more challenging when living on two continents. We have to use the chances to connect when we are both awake.
As usual, we discussed our kids, the weather, my job, and her husband's business. At one point, I put my phone against the wall on the kitchen counter so I could turn around to get my lunch from the refrigerator. As it was still morning, I wore a tank top, skirt, and flip-flops at my house. I heard my sister-in-law gasp in shock when I walked away from the phone.
"Oh my gosh!"
I responded, "What's going on?"
She started to laugh and continued, "What happened to you? Fern, why is your belly so big now? And your back is getting thicker, too."
I immediately defended myself, "Well, I just ate my breakfast." Then I tried to show her that if I held my belly in, it wouldn't be that terrible.
"Oh, stop making excuses," My sister-in-law responded, "You have to be careful from now on."
I looked around as I held in my belly, but I only saw my old, fat, yellow dog Maya, whom I rescued one year ago. She was lying on the floor next to me with her long, withered nipples hanging on her belly. I insisted on bringing her home when my husband wasn't very supportive. I told him, "I want to offer this old lady a quiet place to spend the rest of her life, and she can accompany me, another old lady, as we grow older." Now, looking at her, I feel worse. She gained at least 10 pounds over the last year, and I gained about 5 pounds over the past five months.
"Yeah, I think I will have to exercise more." I switched topics with her and picked up the phone so she wouldn't see my belly anymore; plus, I wanted to save some energy from holding my belly in too hard.
My family has always been candid with me. They are so honest, and it is almost brutal.
In Spring 2019, I brought my two kids, three and seven, back to visit my family. After over 30 hours of flight, we finally landed in Shanghai. The first thing my brother said to me when he saw me at the airport was, "Little sister, you look terrible." He didn't mean, "Oh, poor sister, look at what this long trip has done to you." He was surprised, and a question he had in his mind was so loud that he couldn't help but let it out.
I mean, what did he expect? I know I was dehydrated; my hair was a mess, my eyebrows were half gone, and I was exhausted from anxiety and short of sleep. But I had just flown across the Pacific Ocean with two kids in economy class!
I am the youngest of my siblings. My youngest brother is eight years older than me. Being their little sister with such a wide age gap extends my youth in their eyes; I am forever their little sister.
It's easy for them to forget I am an adult who has two kids, one of whom is a preteen, went through two cesareans, and has a job that requires me to sit in a chair for 40 hours a week.
I am not mad at them; I am just confused when they examine me like that. They used to complain that my skin was too dark. Why are they suddenly shocked when they see a dark spot on my face? They used to joke that my legs were like sticks; I thought they would cheer for me that I put some weight on, but now they think my belly is too big. They make me feel like I would be perfect if I had smoother skin and a skinnier body shape.
Which I was before!
Why didn't they say something nice before? At least I could have felt better about myself. Now I feel bad about myself, and I must go to MacDonald's or Ritter's to make myself feel better.
That Friday, I ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes instead of 15. I didn't drink a bottle of Coca Cola. Behind my closed office door, I tried to do a plank every other hour because my sister-in-law gasped so loud that it echoed inside my head all day!