This weekend (March 8-10) is the Creation Supernatural convention in Nashville, also known as #SPNNash or #NashCon 1Not to be confused with #DashCon. Creation’s next con, in Las Vegas, is only a couple weeks later, and that means I’ve begun to see tweets on my Twitter timeline discussing one’s intention to crash diet to look better in (very expensive) photo ops and one’s failure to follow through. It’s a cycle I know very, very well.
There are few experiences that are so exhilarating and joyful in the moment but so humiliating and painful afterwards. In fact, in my own life I can’t think of any other experience that comes close. I suppose losing a game show on national television that you bragged to all your family and friends about winning would come close 2depending on how mean and petty your family and friends are. You can’t know until you’ve done it just how amazing it feels to be greeted and hugged by your idol. For one thing, most of them are even more attractive in person, and sometimes they smell amazing too, and it’s just not even fair. How are we mere mortals supposed to stand a chance? And I’m lucky in that all the celebrities I’ve met and done photo ops with were incredibly sweet and considerate (to me, at least…but we’ll get to that) and made me feel so special, like I wasn’t just another face in a crowd of 200-300 fangirls/boys/enbys, even though I was.
And then, reality crashes in.
At least at Creation cons, all photo ops are laid out publicly for claiming. Each session’s photos are laid out on long tables, and it’s your job to search through them and find your own. Which means that you get to see anywhere from 1-200 other photos of people who are way more attractive than you, who were given way more affection than you, and those people are also looking at your photo and, presumably, judging it the way you’re judging theirs. Oooh, she’s even shorter than me! Look at that, she got such an amazing hug, I wish I’d gotten a hug like that. Wow, she’s so skinny and hot, no wonder J2 are smiling so big. She’s almost as pretty as they are. She’s so lucky. Oh, man, she has to weigh more than I do but she’s way taller so she probably looks thinner than me. God, I hope I’m not the fattest one on the table. That cosplay must’ve taken forever to put together but it looks perfect. OMG, I wish I’d thought of that hilarious pose! Bet I’ll see that one on Twitter later. And so on.
The actual photo ops come out looking something like this:
That photo was taken in 2009, before I had surgery in 2012 that resulted in a 75-pound weight loss.
This photo was taken in 2018, after putting all the pre-surgery weight back on, losing 50 pounds of it in 2015, and putting that back on as well.
Both of those photos cost over 100 dollars each. I have photos in my collection that cost more than 300 dollars. Just the photo ops alone in my Creation Con journal probably cost me somewhere between 3 and 4 grand. 3Even at the much lower prices from ten years ago
And I fucking hate looking at myself in every. Single. One.
Now, I don’t know how Chris Schmelke, Creation photographer extraordinaire, handles touch-ups to photos to, say, camouflage my noticeable acne and facial hair, as seen below:
…I assume it’s some kind of batch processing command, because I don’t see how he could do it all by hand, but maybe it’s some sort of wizardry I’m not familiar with. The point is, the photo above shows the literal best moment of my entire life so far, but when I look at it, the first thing I see is the fucking double chin.
This photo made my teenage coworker so jealous she actually cried (while on the clock, no less!), and you can bet she wasn’t looking at my double chin or my fat arms or my appalling (to me) lack of lipstick. 4Or bronzer. Sigh. She was looking at Jensen Ackles, her idol, hugging me and smiling, and at that moment, she wanted desperately to be me–double chin and all.
This photo was my Facebook user photo for several years–so long, in fact, that my Apple devices adopted it as my user photo for my Mac Mini and my iCloud account out of my Facebook account, and since I love it, I’ve never changed it. I haven’t posted a photo without a professional actor in it to my Facebook account in 8 years. After this one, it was one of me with Dean Cain, and last year I changed it to the one above with Misha and the Castiel bear. The Misha/bear photo is also my userpic on my personal Twitter account. 5The bears have their own account. And I honestly think I’d feel less ashamed and disappointed in myself if the reason for that was simply showing off the photos/experiences themselves. But it isn’t.
At least, it’s not the primary reason.
The primary reason I use photo ops as my userpics is two-fold:
- Userpics are very reduced in size, so in a pic with two people, I’m half as prominent and draw half as much (if not less) attention.
- Most people who see them comment on how happy I look and how pretty my smile is, and not on how fat or short I am.
Now, about that second reason. Do people comment on my smile/joy because it’s the only thing they see–and if that’s the case, are they deliberately overlooking my giant Weeble body? Or is it the only thing they feel comfortable commenting on because it’s the only genuinely attractive thing about me? Or am I just being way too hard on myself and overthinking the whole thing?
As of right now, I’m scheduled to go to the Creation Supernatural con in Washington, DC 6 Technically, it’s in Arlington, VA from November 1-3, 2019. Which gives me 236 days–just under 8 months–to lose an entire other person’s worth of excess weight.
I’m not going to say that it’s impossible, because I’ve been reading some material lately that suggests that nothing is impossible, including that. But it’s really hard for me to believe that it will happen with the “unwavering faith” that’s apparently necessary to predicate it. It’s really hard for me to pretend that I already have the “perfect 125-pound body” of my dreams. Because I’ve been there, and it didn’t last. Granted, I haven’t been in that particular place since college, when I developed a raging eating disorder to try to stay in that place, but I’ve been fairly far down that road and I always ended up coming back to this place of self-loathing and utter disgust.
Because I’m an American girl raised on a steady diet of ’90s TV, and therefore, when I was growing up, I never saw anybody like me on TV or in movies who wasn’t a mousy sidekick, a gluttonous comic relief buffoon, or a teenage loser who magically became skinny and popular by the end 7I’m looking at you, fatsuit Amy Adams in Smallville. . The advertising industry worked its magic on me and convinced me that I’m worthless and ugly and ought to literally disappear. I mean, I’ve read some fat-acceptance books, I’ve read Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating and Shrill by Lindy West, but overcoming 33 straight years of cultural programming simply doesn’t happen after just four or five hours on Kindle.
And let me throw my #MeToo-cents in as well and admit that yes, I’m a sexual assault survivor and yes, my beyond-morbid obesity is simply a shield to deflect unwanted male (and even female) attention. I wear skinny jeans not out of preference, but out of necessity–they’re the only petite jeans Lane Bryant sells with a short enough inseam that they don’t drag on the ground when I walk. And 10 years of taking a medication proven to grow breasts on men has left me with a cup size so big that I can only buy bras at a plus-size specialty store 15 miles away 8The only one of its kind in this area code, and even they have to special-order mine most of the time from a brand that doesn’t sell their bras online. One or two more cup size increases and I’ll go beyond commercially available sizes entirely.
So how could I possibly look at this body in the mirror and not hate what I see?
I know I’m supposed to be giving the advice here, but I just plain don’t have it. I don’t know how to defeat the programming that tells me that I’m too fat to be even a sexless frump–I’m so fat that I’m invisible. And I apologize for that fact by putting normal weight, super attractive people in my social media userpics for you to look at instead of my ugly Weeble ass. If I tried to focus simply on the things I like about my appearance, I’d never look any lower than my cheekbones.
Thankfully, not many people know the painful paradox of paying $3,000 or more for a collection of photos of yourself that you can’t even stand to look at once they’re printed. And if you have been there, I’m sorry to say that all I can really offer is a warm hug and an empathetic ear. And my snacks–a big bag of Skinny Pop popcorn and Cherry Coke Zero.
I hope it’s enough.
To end this on a more cheerful note, here’s Jensen Ackles strangling my teddy bear.