Ma makes sense, she really does, but I just feel so heavy and gross, and I miss ballet so much, I completely lose myself
I sink onto my bed in horror. Have I gained weight? What, when?
Getting up slowly, I head to the full-size mirror on the wall.
I look the same, don’t I? But my dress won’t fit. I try on another, a tapered suede burgundy. It won’t close.
How can this be happening? On top of everything else?
Ma pokes her head in the room. She looks beautiful with her sheitel swinging around her shoulders.
“Sweetie, are you ready to go? Daddy gave the ten-minute warning.”
I just stare at her.
“Bella?” she asks uncertainly.
“Did you notice I’ve gained weight?” I ask, so quietly I’m barely audible.
Ma steps back, but not before I see the blush on her face.
“You did!” I say accusingly. “You knew!”
Mommy looks like she’s trying to decide how to respond, but I don’t let her deliberate for long.
“How? How did this happen?”
Mommy sighs and sits resolutely down on my bed. She pats the seat next to her, and I can tell she’s choosing her words carefully. “Well, zeeskeit, you’ve been rather aimless lately. And I think that has led to excessive snacking.”
I open my mouth to protest, I haven’t been eating that much, but Mommy’s still speaking.
“And you haven’t been able to burn the calories off with, well, you know.”
Oh. So, it’s just another way that my lack of dancing has now ruined my life. Add it to the list. The very long, very extensive list.
Ma holds up a hand to ward off whatever I’m about to say. “Bella Rena. Listen to me. Why does it matter that you’ve gained a few pounds? You look wonderful. What does concern me is the sudden lack of exercise. One of the main reasons Daddy and I signed you up for ballet in the first place was because it’s such a wonderfully healthy activity. Choose another active outlet, Bella Rena. It’ll be good for you, in more ways than one.”
My brain hurts. Ma makes sense, she really does, but I just feel so heavy and gross, and I miss ballet so much, I completely lose myself.
“What about walking?” I say, and then I stand up, hobble out of the room, down the stairs, and before I know it, I’m outside, in the freezing night, limping my way down the block. Luckily I have my MP3 player in my sweatshirt pocket, so I turn the volume on loud and drown out my sorrows in Ishay Ribo’s soothing voice.
I walk until I’m numb and cold and wracked with regret over walking out on Mommy, and then I turn around and head back home.
It was a thoughtless thing to do, I really need to learn to control my temper, but who knows? Maybe I really did burn some calories.
I know I’m not going to be receiving my new furniture until I apologize, and I also am very aware that I was in the wrong, but it’s still hard for me to peek my head into Mommy’s room on my way out the door in the morning and tell her, “I’m so sorry for walking out and missing the vort, I was just really upset.” But I do it anyway.
Ma just looks at me sadly. “I know, sweetheart. I know.” And then she turns back to pulling the pins out of her sheitel.
I’m late for school, otherwise I would demand that she explain to me exactly what it is she knows, but that morning bell waits for no one.
As Atara and I shuffle along to the davening room, I lean over. “Tar?”
She blinks at me sleepily. “Hmmm?”
“Have you noticed that I’ve gained weight?”
She scrunches her nose. “Not at all. Have you?”
I shrug as we find our seats. “Well, yeah.”
“Oh. Well then, you’re one of those annoying people who look good with a few extra pounds. Gosh, I hate you.”
She bumps me with her shoulder, and I can’t help laughing.
The impossible has happened, she’s actually made me feel better.
“Well, I love you. But you’re serious? You really haven’t noticed?”
We daven, and then it’s time to head up to a riveting class on I Shmuel. Before nine a.m., mind you.
Sleepwalking past the nurse’s office, I get an idea. “Meet you in class,” I say to Atara, and before she can even reply, I duck in the door.
The office is empty, Mrs. Cohen doesn’t get here till nine-thirty. Perfect. I take a deep breath, kick off my shoes, and step onto the scale. Ten pounds. I’ve gained ten pounds.
I gulp and hop off. How on earth am I going to lose this weight? How am I going to ensure I don’t regain it?
In other words, when am I going to be able to retake control of my life?
Out of control. That’s exactly what it is.
Ever since that fateful doctor’s appointment, I feel like I’m in a car with no steering wheel, just a vehicle headed for a full-on collision with the world. I need direction. I need guidance.
But first, I need to lose ten pounds.
This time, I have Mommy’s permission and blessing. I stick my earbuds in, flick the hood of my sweatshirt up, and begin my hobble/jog.
At first, all I can think about is how freezing I am, but eventually I lose myself once more to the music, to the steady rhythm of my stride, to the peace of being alone.
And when I come home smiling, it has nothing to do with losing weight.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 806)
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