“Without curves, I hurt my man!”
I can barely remember what life was like before—back when I didn’t really care how I looked or what I wore. Back when I walked through life without drawing much attention at all.
That seems like a lifetime ago.
Losing seventy pounds is a huge accomplishment. I realize that, but now that I’ve lost so much more than the excess weight I put on with the birth of my two adorable children, it doesn’t seem as important to me. Because I’ve pretty much lost everything that ever meant anything to me, and along the way, I learned some important lessons about life.
It all started when I couldn’t zip up my favorite pair of plus-size jeans after the Christmas holidays. I looked down at my belly, which seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds, and I was sickened by what I saw. All that day, I walked around in a funk, wondering how I’d ever let myself get so fat. Finally, just before lunch, I did a search for weight loss on the Internet and found a website for a very reputable company I’d heard about most of my life. I got out my credit card and joined right away, figuring that the monthly fee was just what I needed to motivate myself.
Not to skim over something so complex, but it really was pretty simple for me from there. I started keeping track of everything that I ate and gradually, one pound at a time, the weight started coming off.
“You’re eating like a bird,” my husband, Daniel, said one Saturday night as we sat at the dinner table. “That can’t possibly be healthy for you.”
“My stomach has shrunk,” I said.
“My stomach’s shrunk, too,” our daughter, Megan, said, playing with her food.
“You’re going to be too skinny,” Daniel said, still scowling. “I don’t like skinny women. I like you just the way you are.”
If he liked me the way I was, then why was he always leering at other women whenever we were out together? He probably thought I didn’t notice, but it was obvious—both to me, and to the other women. As it was, I’d caught him in the act more than a few times, and I realized that if he’d look at them when I was standing right next to him, he’d certainly do it when I wasn’t around.
And they were all the same, those women: skinny little things in skimpy clothing with flat tummies and big boobs. Now that I was losing weight, my own chest was shrinking right along with the rest of my body, but I figured there were plenty of padded bras on the market to compensate for it.
I wasn’t at my goal weight by summer, but I still looked pretty good. I was even able to get back into some clothes that were hanging in my closet from before I’d had Megan and our two-year-old son, Jaden. But, mostly, I just felt good about myself for the first time in years.
I reached my goal weight in December, just a few days before Christmas, and almost a year after I’d started. It took me a little while to adjust to the new me. I started by boxing up all my old clothing and dropping it off at the offices of a local charitable organization.
That meant I had to buy new clothes. When I finally went shopping, I was a little more daring than I’d been before the children’s births, mostly because the clothes I found in stores were more daring than they’d been back then. At first, Daniel was supportive, but I started to notice him frowning at my outfits once it got closer to spring.
“Who are you trying to pick up in that getup?” he asked one night as we prepared to go out for our anniversary. My sister, Annie, was watching the kids for us.
“I’m trying to look good for you, sweetie,” I told him. As it was, I couldn’t remember the last time my own husband had told me I looked nice. It was probably before we were married.
“I think she looks great,” Annie put in. “Just beautiful!”
“Thanks.” I’d bought the blouse I was wearing on an Internet auction site, used, so I wouldn’t spend too much more of Daniel’s hard-earned money on my new wardrobe. He’d really been complaining about that lately.
“Don’t stay out too late,” Annie teased as we slipped out the door.
Daniel had made reservations for us at a swanky restaurant in a hotel downtown. I felt that the night was a celebration of all I’d accomplished, as well as a night to pay tribute to our six years of marriage. But apparently, Daniel didn’t agree.
“You going to eat something?” he grumbled as we studied our menus.
“I’m going to eat whatever I want,” I proclaimed with a broad smile. Now that I was no longer trying to lose weight, I figured I could splurge a little once or twice a week.
“You’ll probably just pick at your dinner, anyway,” he said sourly.
I set down my menu. “Daniel, this is a special night. Do you have to spoil it with all your grousing?”
Over the past few months, I’d tried to make sense of Daniel’s attitude about my weight loss. At first, I’d just figured that he was resentful that I could no longer join in on his junk-food binges, but he still ate whatever he wanted. Lately, though, it’d seemed like he was almost jealous of my new look.
I ordered the filet mignon and Daniel asked for the sixteen-ounce rib eye. Once the waitress was gone, I stared at him across the candlelit table. Our eyes met, and I felt that familiar flutter in my stomach.
“You’ve changed your makeup,” he snapped.
My smile fell. “According to this article I read in Allure, darker eye shadow is in style.”
“You read too many of those silly magazines.”
I’d recently picked up a subscription to the women’s fashion magazine—the kind that always has tips for spicing up your sex life. Daniel had been furious.
“What kind of a mother cares more about her wardrobe than she does about her own two children?” he’d thundered. I’d tried telling him that the parenting articles I’d read in other women’s magazines had gotten repetitive after so many issues, but he was obviously more taken aback by the symbolism of my new magazine choice.
“You don’t like my new look?” I asked him now. I was fishing for compliments, I know, but I was desperate.
“I liked you just fine before,” was all he said. That’s all he would ever say on the issue, no matter how many times I asked him.
“Well, I didn’t,” I said, taking a liberal swig of my wine before continuing. “I’m much healthier and happier now.”
Daniel wasn’t even listening to me. His attention had strayed to a table a few feet away, where a beautiful blonde sat with an equally gorgeous man. I sighed as I dug into the salad the waitress had brought us. In some ways, my life had been much better before I’d lost weight.
Somehow, we made it through dinner. There was no way around it, though—we’d have to pass the blonde on our way out the door. Daniel led the way, and I wasn’t at all surprised when he chose to swing between the blonde, and the empty table behind her. This put him directly at a level where he could see down her low-cut blouse. I looked at the blonde’s date, smiling at the thought that he might notice Daniel looking and punch him out for it, but the guy wasn’t looking at my husband—
He was too busy checking me out.
The man, who looked a little like an older Brad Pitt, allowed his gaze to slowly scan the length of me before returning to my face. He smiled, and my heart skipped a beat. I smiled back at him before following Daniel out the door.
I barely heard a word my husband said on the drive home. Not that I was missing much; he just made a couple of comments about the kids, and something about trading the car in on a new one. As it was, my mind was reeling. For the first time since I was a college student, a man had openly admired me!
I felt so guilty over the thrill the attention had given me that I gave Daniel extra attention that night during our routine lovemaking. I wondered if the handsome blond had given me a second thought after I’d left his sight. Probably not, but, still—it was exciting to imagine him making love to his beautiful date while all the while fantasizing that she was I.
The incident stayed with me over the next couple of days as I went about my normal routine. I began to wonder then if men had been checking me out all along, but my tunnel vision had prevented me from seeing it. And so I opened my eyes and started watching for it. Sure enough, ogling men were everywhere—in the grocery store, at the mall, at the bank. Sometimes, the men were even attractive, too. The kind of men I would never even dream would be interested in a bore like me.
It wasn’t limited to age, either. The first time a high school kid eyed my chest, I nearly choked on the diet soda I was drinking. As it was, I was closing in on thirty-seven, and I couldn’t imagine that a kid his age would find a woman my age even remotely interesting. But then, I’d started to realize that men don’t seem to discriminate when it comes to a woman’s figure.
Work was a different matter. I’d been in the same advertising copywriting job for five years, and everyone there remembered me when I was heavier. They were impressed with my accomplishment, sure, but I don’t think the men could see me as a desirable woman. Even if they could, I knew they’d be subtle about it.
I was aware of it, though, and I knew I was pushing the envelope with the clothing I wore to work: stretchy tops with professional skirts, tight sweaters, V-neck blouses—I hardly owned anything that didn’t hug my figure these days, and work was no exception. Fortunately, if anyone minded, they didn’t say so.
Still, I’ll never forget the day I first met Lance. I’d heard they were hiring a new programmer for our web team, but I just figured he’d be like all the other programmers on our staff—fresh out of college. So when my boss rounded my cubicle with a gorgeous, dark-haired guy who appeared to be my own age, I just assumed that he was a client.
“This is Jolene,” my boss said, gesturing to me. “Actually, you two will be working together quite a bit. Jolene writes all the copy for our websites.”
That was an additional assignment they’d piled onto me a couple of years earlier, and it’d pretty much been the bane of my existence ever since. The web work was the reason why I had to work late at least three nights a week.
“Nice to meet you,” the gorgeous guy said, extending his hand to me. I returned the handshake and felt a little tingle at the warmth of his hand around mine.
“This is Lance,” was all my boss said to me before shuffling him off to meet someone else.
After that, I guess I was always aware of Lance. Anytime I had to go to a meeting with him or talk to him about something, I always powdered my nose and retouched my lipstick. But the awareness of him was actually more of a hindrance to me. Maybe it was a defense I put up to keep myself from doing anything I’d regret, but I tried not to look at him, and I always kept a fully professional front around him.
Until a project came along that changed everything.
It was another one of those last-minute rush jobs that could’ve been avoided if the client had prepared a little better. The website had to be fully functional by Monday morning, which meant that Lance would have to work on it through most of the weekend. That also meant that I had to be on hand to help, since Lance wasn’t familiar with the client and what they liked.
For hours on end that weekend, we sat in front of that computer monitor, going over the fine details of what graphic should go where. By Saturday night, we’d made considerable headway and decided to go home. I needed to give Daniel a break after he’d watched the kids all day by himself, and Lance had plans with his girlfriend.
Oh, yeah—I forgot to mention that. Lance had a girlfriend. I’d heard all about her through others in the office. She worked for a local news station as a reporter, and they’d met just a few months earlier. Apparently, Lance was pretty serious about her.
“Hopefully, we can finish up by noon tomorrow,” Lance said. “Then maybe we can get a few hours of weekend in before Monday morning.”
We were in the elevator on the way down to the lobby, and again, I felt that attraction to him. It was an awareness of his body, mostly, which was a full five feet away from me. There was no logical reason for it, unless my hormones were just going haywire.
“The boss will let us off early sometime to compensate,” I said, moving to lean against the elevator wall. That put an extra foot or so between us, but I still felt that awareness of him. I wondered if he felt anything at all toward me. If so, he didn’t look it.
“I could use a few days off,” he said, watching the indicator panel as it lit up as we passed floors. “Lately, I feel like all I do is work, work, work.”
“That’s because that is all we do,” I said with a smile.
He met my gaze then and smiled, too. His gaze lowered to my mouth, which made perfect sense, since I was smiling. Still, it made heat rush through my body. Then the elevator doors slid open, and he jerked his gaze away. My legs felt wobbly as I stepped out of the elevator with him behind me, into the empty lobby.
We continued on to the parking garage, discussing the project and the work we had to do tomorrow. My mind wasn’t on our conversation, though. It was on that eye contact we’d made in the elevator.
You’re married, Jolene, I reminded myself. My wedding ring was as prominent on my left ring finger as the sun is in the sky—not to mention the numerous photos I had displayed on my desk of my husband and kids. Certainly, Lance was more than aware that I was married and, besides, he had a girlfriend.
“This is me,” I said as we neared my car. Then I was so busy digging my keys out of my purse that I didn’t realize he was looking at me until I looked up again.
Odd, but, suddenly, it felt like the end of a date. That giddiness—the lingering curiosity about whether or not he’d kiss me. Not that Lance looked like he might kiss me. Actually, he looked more like he couldn’t wait to get away from me.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you in the morning then,” he said, waving as he headed toward his car.
I thought about him all the way home. My mind was already working overtime, planning what I’d wear the next day, and wondering what more I could do to get Lance to be attracted to me. It didn’t matter that nothing could be done, even if he were attracted. It was all a game to me, and all the fun was in playing it.
Daniel was in a bad mood when I got home that night, just as I’d expected. He never liked having to watch the kids for more than a couple of hours by himself, and if my absence hadn’t been work-related, I knew he would’ve refused to do it. But I’d let him know that I had no other choice.
That evening, as I made love to my husband, for the very first time, I imagined that he was Lance . . . Lance’s hands roaming my body, Lance holding me. . . . I had to stretch the fantasy a bit to make it work, as Daniel was far from romantic. Mostly, our sex life was a routine we went through because we felt we had to. At least, that was the impression I got from Daniel.
“It doesn’t bother you, me being alone in that office all day with Lance?” I asked him afterward as we lay side by side, staring up at the ceiling.
“Why would it?”
“Well, Lance’s a pretty handsome guy,” I told him. I wasn’t exactly sure why I was doing something so potentially self-destructive, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I wanted some passion from Daniel—some evidence that he did, in fact, still love me.
“I’m sure he has a wife or a girlfriend or something then,” Daniel said, rolling over on his side, away from me.
“Nope,” I lied.
Daniel didn’t respond. And so I just lay there for hours, staring up at the ceiling, depressed. I’d thought that maybe Daniel was afraid he was going to lose me now that I looked better, but maybe not. Then why was he so troubled by my weight loss, if not out of insecurity and fear?
I sprang out of bed the next morning when the alarm went off, already excited about the time I’d be spending with Lance. I took extra care with my shower, applying body lotion afterward, and plenty of light dabs of perfume all over. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted my mere nearness to inspire thoughts of naked bodies on silk sheets in darkened rooms. I wanted my image to stay with Lance long after our day together was over—for years, even.
Not too much to ask, was it?
“Good morning!” I said brightly as I entered Lance’s cubicle with a box of doughnuts and a stack of napkins. He was hunkered over his laptop, his full concentration on the screen.
“Hi,” he said distractedly.
I set the doughnuts next to him and slid onto the guest chair, still where I’d left it the night before. “So, how’s it going?”
“Fine.” He sounded busy, but there was something else. An overall change in his personality that I couldn’t quite define.
“Is something wrong?”
He just shook his head, closing his eyes a little longer than normal, and returned to his work. I let him continue in silence, but as the morning wore on, I could tell that something was drastically wrong.
“Why don’t we break for lunch?” I finally suggested around twelve-thirty. We’d accomplished quite a bit by then, but there was still a little left to go, and my stomach was starting to growl.
“Oh.” Lance looked up at me as though he’d forgotten I was even sitting there. “Okay, I guess.”
He didn’t say a word on the ride down in the elevator, or in the car ride to the same restaurant we’d eaten lunch at the previous day. I had no plans to eat my entire meal in silence, so I figured it was time for me to break the ice.
“Did something happen with your girlfriend?” I asked. It was a hunch, based on the fact that the only thing that had happened between now and the last time I’d seen him was his date.
“She told me she wants to see other people,” he said. “Code words for she wants to dump me, huh?”
I took a deep breath. This was a tough one. The details of their relationship were a complete mystery to me—I hadn’t even met the woman. “Not necessarily,” I said, going only on my own experiences. “When you get to a certain point in a relationship, it’s easy to feel trapped. You start to consider your options and wonder what else is out there.” Boy, if that wasn’t speaking from experience, I didn’t know what was.
But there was more where that came from.
“Isn’t it better that she gets this out of her system now, rather than ten years down the road, when you’re married?” I asked.
Lance nodded and I could see then that I was making a small crack in the ice. The truth is, I really liked this guy, and I wanted him to confide in me. I wanted a friendship with him, completely outside of the vivid fantasies I’d been having about him. Whenever I was around him, I felt like I was sixteen again.
Lance opened up then, telling me all about their relationship. To me, it sounded like he’d pushed and pushed until he’d pushed the girl away. But I didn’t tell him that. Instead, I listened to what he had to say, and by the time we returned to the office, he was back to his old self.
Daniel wasn’t around when I returned home. My sister was watching the kids, and when I asked her where he’d gone, she simply shrugged and said, “Out.”
He returned late that night and was mostly unresponsive to my questions. All I could gather was that he’d grown tired of watching the kids, so he’d called Annie to take over. He wouldn’t even tell me where he’d gone.
He didn’t have to.
I realized then that I should have known all along—and maybe a part of me did. There was someone else in his life—probably someone younger, and blonder, and much more beautiful than I was.
I had to know, for my own peace of mind. And so I turned amateur detective, searching his pockets and going through receipts for evidence of his wrongdoing. As it turned out, the answer lay inside his cell phone bill, which contained numerous phone calls to the same number. I called the number and found it was a business.
Donna’s Alterations was a mere three blocks from home. I made an appointment and searched my closets for a pair of pants that were too long for me. The day of my appointment, I was so nervous that I could barely eat. I was on my way to meet Donna, the other woman in my husband’s life.
It didn’t occur to me until I pulled into the driveway of what was obviously a private residence, that “seamstress” wasn’t exactly the image I had of this woman. Exotic dancer or cocktail waitress maybe. But I told myself that this was just a young woman with a head for business and a sewing machine—
Until I saw the kids.
They were playing on the swing set—two boys around Megan’s age. Again, not the image I had associated with my husband’s mistress.
The door opened on my third knock. “You must be Marcy,” she said, using the fake name I’d given her over the phone.
I just stared. The woman in front of me was a mirror image, head to toe, of me the way I’d used to be. Oh, her face was different, and she was slightly rounder than I’d been, even at my heaviest. But the hairstyle, the clothing—the general look was straight out of my past.
“I—I’m here for—” I couldn’t get the words out. They were in my head, but they wouldn’t roll off my tongue.
“Come on in,” she said, gesturing for me to enter. “I’m on the phone, but why don’t you just slip into those pants and we’ll take them up?”
Hidden behind the dressing-room curtain she’d pulled around me, I could still hear everything. Especially when she started speaking on the phone again.
“Okay, Daniel, I’m here,” I heard her say. “I have a customer, though. Can I call you back later? Okay, sweetie. I love you, too. ‘Bye.”
I’m not sure how long I stood there, staring blankly at the wall as my life with Daniel flashed before my eyes. It must’ve been a while, because Donna’s voice, asking if I was okay, snapped me out of my stupor.
“I’m fine,” I called. Then, hastily slipping into my pants, I rushed through the curtain and faced my husband’s mistress.
Her cheery face was still firm in my mind when I walked in through the door that evening. Daniel was home already, camped out in front of the TV and complaining because he’d had to pick up the kids from daycare. When he’d finished with that, he eyed the fast food I’d picked up on the way home with a scowl.
“If I wanted that crap, I could’ve picked it up myself!” he complained. “Is it too much to ask for home cooking every once in a while?”
He got home cooking almost every night, but that didn’t matter. I’d had it with him.
“I just met Donna,” I blurted out. Maybe it wasn’t the most tactful way to broach the subject, but I couldn’t suffer through another minute of our sham of a marriage.
He took a deep breath and let it out, never glancing away from the television. Just as I was beginning to wonder if he’d ever say anything, he spoke.
“I’ll have my stuff moved out before you get home from work tomorrow.”
I shook my head. “Just like that, you’re going to throw away seven years of marriage?”
He looked at me then, and I saw a coldness in his eyes that had been there for a while. I’d simply chosen not to pay attention to it.
“You threw our marriage away,” he said. “When you changed. You are no longer the woman I married. I want someone who will put the needs of my children and me first, above everything, and Donna is that woman. You’re too caught up in your selfish ways to even take decent care of us!”
My selfish ways? What on earth was he talking about?
“I’ll have you know that I plan to file for full custody of the children,” he said. “And I think I have a pretty good case against you on it. Your work has taken you away from home quite a bit lately, and I don’t see why that won’t continue to happen. Since Donna works out of her home, she’ll be a suitable mother for both her kids and mine. You make me sick, Jolene. Ever since you got skinny—too skinny, I might add—you’ve turned into a selfish, repulsive bitch. I can’t even have sex with you without getting poked by one of your ribs!”
There was no point in discussing it with him. I could see clearly then that Daniel was dead set on divorcing me, and I couldn’t really argue against it. Just knowing that he’d had an affair made me want nothing to do with him. He could not be trusted.
The papers were filed the following day. My sister knew of a good attorney and, as it turned out, mine was better than Daniel’s. That didn’t win me full custody of the kids, but at least we achieved shared custody, which, I’m told, we probably would’ve gotten, anyway. Courts tend to try to settle things fifty-fifty in most divorce cases.
Now, we’re living in a small, two-bedroom apartment. Financially, things aren’t as great as they were before. But I’m happy with my new life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I know you’re thinking that Lance and I probably got together, but that’s not really the case. I’m still working on it, though, and I think I’m making headway. As it is, we’ve become really good friends, and lately, those moments of attraction between us are more and more frequent. When I look back several years at the person I was before I lost all that weight, I can’t believe that I’m the same woman today. All I can think is that I was not really living back then, just drifting through life. Now, though, I’m really and truly having the time of my life.