and Why I Can No Longer Be One
by tatiana de la tierra
Botero’s fat naked ladies dance circles all around me. Facing the front of my bed, one painting exhibits a nude lying on her side on top of a bull, her legs in the air, her eyes closed, one hand wrapped around the bull’s horn.
The bull, a happy stud, is grinning. In another painting, the robust rear end of a redhead gordita winks out at me. Her arms are above her head; looking pleased, she is oblivious of the dark little butterflies that swirl around her. Another painting has a group of corpulent high society ladies in various stages of undress who are drinking and smoking to excess. Raucous party animals, you get the feeling that, despite the man who’s crashed out on the floor beneath a chair, these women might end up in a luscious fat girl orgy by the end of the night.
Given how fatness is loathed the world over, others may have alternate interpretations to these and other paintings by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero. I’ve read political, cultural and socioeconomic critiques surrounding Botero’s penchant for hugeness, which he applies equally to men, saints, birds, trees, Colombian cocaine dealer Pablo Escobar and the tortured prisoners of Abu Ghraib. I don’t know how Botero’s artistic intuition guided him to exaggerated figures and fleshy femmes, but I’ve gleefully adopted the images in a fat pride sort of way and have plastered them all over my home.
Better yet, I became one of Botero’s gorditas—a sensuous, irreverent colorful Colombian fat chick who lived it up in the flesh. Despite the serious and insidious fat bashing that’s always prevailed in my world, I reveled in my plus-sizeness. I threw my weight around at the right moments and barreled into jerks that crossed my path. I enjoyed myself as a voluminous woman of power and didn’t let anything stop me from getting down and dirty when I was sufficiently enraptured with someone of my liking. I did the mundane—laundry, groceries, errands—and I sang and danced and coasted around in a horse-drawn carriage in queenly fashion.
Being fat handily placed me in the category of Other, a position of comfort to my rebellious nature. My massive body made me special. I took up space and commanded attention by merely existing. I thumbed my nose at the obesity hysteria and didn’t deprive myself of chocolate croissants, coffee gelato or organic butter. I cursed retailers and designers in shopping sprees when I couldn’t find the coolest threads in my size at reasonable prices. I rolled my eyes at the abnormally thin feminine models representing the ideal woman in the media and felt like mainstream society had a skewed view of beauty.
I do think that beauty is beyond poundage. Beauty is a combination of factors, some of which you cannot physically see. It has the potential to exist in any weight, in any color, in any physique. It radiates from the inside of my external fatness.
I feel a tight bond with my fat, my body of armor, my faithful companion. But now my beloved fat, my squishy wishy lumpy jiggly wiggly dumpy sumptuous sensuous fat cells will have to go. Currently on dialysis, I am preparing the path for a kidney transplant in the future, and the surgeon in charge has announced his edict: in order to get on the transplant list, lose 40 pounds in six months.
The transplant list is a passport to another dimension. These days I am tethered to a machine three days a week with my warm blood swirling around me in plastic tubes while an artificial “kidney” filters the toxins from my blood. Nursing technicians insert two huge needles into a super vein in my left arm and I watch as my blood spurts into the clear tubes, coloring them with my red juice. My beating heart is in the hands of a sophisticated machine that keeps me artificially alive. After four hours or so, I stumble out into the world with loads of white tape strapped painfully tight to my skin as my veins pulse with the blood circulating back inside my body.
These days are topsy turvy and I marvel as my life unfolds in an upside-down path. But dialysis is a program at an elite institution and I want to graduate soon so that I can head to the next big adventure. Getting on the transplant list is the first step to being off dialysis, so 40 pounds in six months it is.
But how am I going to bid adieu to my precious 40 pounds? I am chewing the fat on this, as I am someone who genuinely adores eating. Will I do something atrocious like count calories and lay off the lard? Hit the gym, dance on the elliptical and dive into the pool? Go on a liquid diet, drink a quart of green smoothies daily, do the lemonade master cleanse or incorporate some of the longevity raw food protocol? Declare a war on the fungi, bacteria and parasites that have taken up residence inside my body and altered my natural state of being? I don’t know yet as I’m still figuring this out, but yes, I will do some of the above.
What I do know is that Botero’s fat ladies are going away, off my walls. Because I can’t be hanging around these powerful fat positive images while I’m in the process of imagining myself as a muscled and lean winged eagle woman. As I become that which I envision myself to be, my “diet” will include focusing on the ambiance and images that will get me there. Like Botero’s platters of colorful and vibrant fleshy fat fruit.
Now, if I could only get him to paint me a super sized kidney.