Wow. This one is a rough one for me. Let me preface this freedom by saying this. I always believed this "being invisible" thing didn't exist. I believed that if you were a good person, then people would treat you well in return. No matter your weight. I was very wrong. Living on both sides, I see that now.
I'm an eye contact kind of gal. I believe it's something you should always do. It was something I've had to learn as an adult because as a child I had such low self esteem I would never look up. I didn't want anyone to think it was about them so I would force myself to look at people and smile. I did this until it became common place; just the norm.
Here's the thing... being fat? Often times you get no acknowledgement back. It's like you're the invisible man/woman. When I moved from California to Ohio at 20, I thought it was so weird how people just didn't make eye contact. I thought it was a small town "thing". I chalked it up to that. When we moved to Chicago? Same thing. I chalked it up to rudeness; we were outsiders and that must be it? Then Denver... Ah, Denver. It was great. We'd walk down the street and folks would actually say "hello! great day we're having" and I was in heaven. Maybe it was the mountain air? The diversity? The city was clean and the people kind! But then I realized... that only happened when I was with my husband! Oh sure, people would sometimes make eye contact and say hello to me but for the most part, I got nothing. And if I needed help? Forget about it. No opening doors. No offering up a bus seat. No "afternoon". No nods. No eye contact. I was invisible. I didn't exist. I thought honestly that this was what life was like.
THEN. I lost weight.
And doors opened. Not just opened. People would wait for me just so they could hold the door. They would inconvenience themselves for my sake. Oh my gosh.... "afternoon" is now full conversations. Nods are nods with a smile. There is eye contact, and acknowledgement. There is existence in this world. And by existence, I mean I existence to others.
I went to get a battery at the local car parts store a couple weeks ago. I opened the passenger door to get the battery out and another customer offered to carry it for me. Another customer opened the door. The clerk brought it back to the car for me. I asked for none of this. I can tell you from years of experience, this would not have happened if I still weighed 355lbs. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the assistance. I just acknowledge the difference.
Oh wait, did I say difference? I meant prejudice.
I am the same person I was at 355lbs. I carry the same spirit and kindness. However, I now "exist" based on my outward appearance and only that. It's societies perception of who I am based on what I look like.
How very sad.
Today, I walk down the street and I acknowledge everyone. I make eye contact. I open doors. I offer up my seat. I smile. I nod and offer up "afternoons" and "hello" to EVERYONE regardless of race, religion, appearance, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, life status or WEIGHT. Sometimes, kindness is as simple as a smile and a hello. It can change a day. It can change a life.