I was born in 1973, born five minutes after me was my fraternal twin sister. There is a picture of us only a few weeks old where it appears she is trying to punch me in the face. That should’ve been a good indicator of things to come.
Although we were not identical, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins still were confused about who was who. When we were born we weighed a little under 5 pounds each and stayed in the hospital until we gained enough weight to leave. Except one of us never stopped gaining. Starting at an early age that’s how relatives would tell us apart. They didn’t care if I heard them or not. “D is the fat one and Deb is the skinny one” is what I constantly had to listen to. As I became older I would scream in my head “Are you f*cking stupid? One of us is blond and the other is a red head! If you don’t know the difference after 15 years than don’t bother!”. There were honestly times I wanted to physically hurt one of them. I would be playing with cousins and one would get hurt. I would automatically get blamed because I was “big” and must have “squished” one of them.
I tried to be invisible. It was easier that way. If I drew attention to myself that would be asking for punishment, humiliation, or ridicule. I wore baggy clothes and hid my face behind my hair for many years.
I always had a love for make up, hair products, perfume, clothes, but I was limited in what I could do. There was little clothing available at that time for 16 year old girls who were a size 18. Most clothing was marketed for much older women or what little I thought was nice was extremely expensive.
By the time I was a Senior in High School my Bipolar Episodes (Not Diagnosed Yet) were in full swing. I would have feelings of wanting to belong so badly I thought the world would end. I wanted a guy to actually see me for once. I wanted to be wanted. Smoke and Mirrors became my best friends.
Not many are born knowing how to apply make up correctly or blow dry hair just right. I had to learn in order to wear my “mask” of confidence that was boosted with alcohol. When I was all made up and had a new outfit on I actually felt a little good about myself. Add the alcohol in and I was hot. That can only last so long. 20 years to be exact.
When I was diagnosed as Bipolar and stopped drinking I also stopped socializing. I did start to lose some weight. The Doctor told me I would at first because of the medication and because I have Celiac Disease. A year went by and I was down almost 130 pounds. My family was worried. Well most of them. I now weighed less than my twin sister and she wasn’t taking it well.
I wasn’t doing well either. I had this new body in the mirror, a completely different face, I had changed my hair color as well. I wasn’t sure how to dress for this body. My sister refused to go clothes shopping with me. I would sit in a dressing room quietly crying because I was confused about whether I was wearing a shirt or a dress. Did I have a camel toe or was it suppose to fit that way? Some of the clothing should’ve come with directions. I finally had to ask women in the dressing rooms to help me. I was embarrassed. I was angry that after all the years of bullying and pain my sister would hold this against me.
When I received a compliment I didn’t know what to do with it. When someone found out I had lost a lot of weight I felt like I had to tell them it wasn’t through diet and exercise because it would be wrong to let them think that.
When I started to notice dents in my temples and indentations in my cheeks I became concerned. My Hematologist told me I had “Muscle Wasting Disease” which happens with Autoimmune Disorders. What we didn’t know was that my Kidneys had been Failing. I wouldn’t find out until it was almost too late.
Bipolar Disorder, Alcoholism, Obesity, and even being too thin all carry Stigma. The things I’ve had said and done to me because of one or the other I still can’t forget. I used “Beauty Tools” to try to hide the real me even when I lost weight. I never leave the house without a mask. But sometimes they serve a purpose.
While in Cosmetology School and working in Salons I would do hair for women who couldn’t afford it. Women who hadn’t had their hair done in years or ever. I can’t tell you how many had tears rolling down their faces when I was finished. As they stood up their posture would be different than when they first came in. Their eyes brighter and their smiles confident. I know it’s only hair but sometimes it’s the human interaction and having a chance to relax and feel good about yourself that can make a difference. It’s those times I enjoyed the most.