Today’s Guest: Molly AltorferMolly’s self-description on Twitter says it all: “Aspiring SuperMom. Communications & marketing freelance strategist. Wannabe professional golfer. News junkie. Mid-life grad student.” You can find Molly on Twitter @m_altorfer or on her blog Molly Altorfer::Freelance
“I wouldn’t have been friends with you in college. You would have scared me.”
Jenifer uttered these two statements mere moments after I told her a less than flattering story about me from college. How less than flattering? Well, I rate it an 11 out of 10. The story involved me being furious with one of my college roommates because she refused to (ever) do the dishes – including her mountains of used, gelatinous-encrusted pots and pans. In a temper tantrum worthy of John McEnroe, I demolished a wall with a tennis racket in the rental house I shared with six other women. The look of pure disgust and fear on the face of my one roommate who witnessed this episode was enough of a gut check for me. Did my temper go away? No, not entirely, but I think I do a relatively good job of controlling it now. I consider it a process.
Over the past few weeks I’ve thought of Jen’s response to my story, which I had never shared with anyone else. Ever.
Jen was completely non-judgmental. And it wasn’t my behavior that she questioned – but her own. As I understood Jen’s evaluation of me at that time in my life, I would have been too competitive, too intimidating and too forceful for her to even consider having a friendship with. She’s chronicled in this blog about how she was often gripped with fear about her own insecurities, and I interpreted her comments to mean that I would have been “too much” of anything, and everything for her tender, fragile self.
What I didn’t say to Jen at the time – but have thought several times since is, “I wouldn’t have been friends with you, either.”
In case you’re just reading this blog for the first time, here’s a news flash for you: Jen was fat. At her highest weight, she clocked in at more than 350 pounds. The “college Molly” wouldn’t even have registered Jenifer as a person, let alone someone worthy of befriending.
That’s a pretty shocking statement: I would not have registered her as a person. Embarrassing, but true.
Here is the back story, but please note that this is not presented as an excuse for my behavior. I went to a private college in Minnesota. As I look back now, no one was overweight. Seriously. I cannot think of one person who I knew – either personally or in passing on campus – who was obese. Jen and I have had this conversation about the “skinniness” of my alma mater and she thinks (and I agree) that it likely has to do with the socio-economic makeup of that particular school, which includes a lot of middle- to upper-class students from the Twin Cities. Greater resources often provides greater or increased access to healthier foods and exercise, thus equaling a campus that is obsessed with health, fitness and size 2 J-Crew jeans and sundresses. (No one was fat, but I could talk a blue streak about classmates with serious eating disorders…but that’s another story).
So without coming into any sort of contact with an overweight person or anyone who was struggling with obesity issues, I had some alarmingly negative and entrenched stereotypes of people who were overweight. Lazy? Check. Lack of self-control? Check. Unclean? Check. Unintelligent? Check. You name them and I can almost guarantee I had them.
So how is it that I now count as one of my best friends a person who was formerly fat? I’m not sure how we connected when I was working at Mount Mercy, since Jen and I worked in markedly different areas. Of course, I am incredibly glad that we did find a common bond. Jen is the person to whom I know I can tell my secrets and that they will remain confidential and who is always ready for a good laugh or a snarky comment, and she is also the Godmother to my daughter. So it’s pretty apparent that I cherish her and our friendship.
What is astounding is that she alone has had the power to reverse all of my negative, hurtful and harmful stereotypes about people who are overweight or are dealing with significant weight issues. We were friends before she started this blog and her food challenge, but I would argue that our friendship has deepened during that time. What I’ve learned from Jenifer is that there is incredible power in disclosing and bringing to the light of day our fears, hopes, insecurities and desires. She proves that to me every week – and each Thursday I am more in awe of the cogently written and wryly described tidbits of “Jen-isms” that she offers to her readers.
I didn’t intend for this post to become a “Jenifer is the best” entry, and I know she wouldn’t want that anyway. But I do wish to convey that Jenifer has tapped into the power of the written word – and in a way that is eloquently yet simply conveyed to me and to others each week. Her struggle with weight issues is visible – but there are legions of us out there who struggle with issues that cannot be visibly critiqued by others.
Jen has taught me that there are restorative and healing powers in voicing what’s on your mind so that others may benefit from your experiences, mistakes and successes – and even the power in dredging up old college stories.