This morning I stopped to do an errand on my way to work. Someone working in the store who hasn’t seen me since I lost a big chunk of weight was surprised. So surprised, in fact, that she yelled out to me from 15 feet away. “Is that Mary Stella?? How did you do it??”
Never mind that there were half a dozen other people in the store who all immediately turned around and stared at me. I was so shocked and embarrassed by the outburst, that I had to scramble for a coherent reply. I wish I’d thought up something like, “Pleading the 5th on the advice of counsel” or “Sorry. A woman’s entitled to her secrets” or the old standby “I could tell you but then I’d have to shoot you”. Ignoring that I was suddenly the object of peoples’ attention while they tried to figure out what the hell she meant, I managed to smile and tell her we’d chat when I made it up to the counter. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone else and, thankfully, they returned to whatever they’d been doing.
I got to the woman and imagined everyone reacting like that old “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen” ad campaign. I didn’t whisper but used a normalish volume, smiled again and very matter of factly said, “I had weight loss surgery in January.” This prompted her to tell me that so had she, and she’d lost a lot of weight at first, but then this happened and that happened and . . . and. . .
Her explanation didn’t really conclude but the gist was, I think, that she’d gone into apologetic/explanation mode because, well, somewhere along the journey she either stopped losing weight or she put a chunk of it back on. I believe she tried to sort of explain it by saying that she hadn’t had the bypass, but something called the sleeve.
“Oh, that’s what I had,” I said, all chipper and happy. Then I silently gave myself an internal head-smack. If she’s feeling bad I certainly didn’t want to make her feel worse by shining my current success in her face.
We cruised into her actually taking care of the job I needed her to do to complete my errand. I thanked her and went on my way with no more talk of surgeries or diets or anything.
It was such a freaking awkward encounter, but there were lessons to be learned by both of us.
1) If you haven’t seen someone in awhile and they’ve lost a lot of weight, or even if it’s someone you see all of the time, if you’re going to say anything to them, do it one-on-one and discreetly. Do not shout it out in public in front of others.
2) No matter how embarrassing the situation, summon up a smile and ride it out. You honestly do not have to offer any explanation to anyone else if you don’t want to. At the very least, you can control the how and when of the telling.
3) Weight loss surgery is not a guarantee of long term success. It is a tool. I’ve known this all along, but today really brought it home to me. I feel bad for the other woman, but am grateful for the reminder.
What a way to start the day! Thankfully things improved from that point on!