“El pan para la noche,” she says imitating me and giggles. “No te recuerdas?”
I shake my head no. All I remember of my trip to El Cargadero that summer was the excitement of being on a plane without my parents, running around the large plaza in front of Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s house playing games with the neighborhood kids, and getting hooked on Rosa Salvaje. I must have blocked out my love for pan dulce and the result.
When Danny and I returned from El Cargadero, I had gained weight. Again, I don’t remember this, but my mom and Mamá Toni insist that El Cargadero was the turning point. I was no longer average. From ’88 on I was chubby/chunky/fat/whatever/insert your own euphemism.
While I don’t remember the result of my trip to Zacatecas, I do remember my First Communion the next spring. I wore the white custom-made dress I wore as a flower girl for my Tía Nellie’s wedding just a few weeks earlier. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, mom talked to Mrs. Millan, my Brownie troop leader. Mrs. Millan complained about finding a dress for her small and skinny daughter. Mom told her she had the opposite problem, but was lucky I had the flower girl dress. I was embarrassed and felt like hiding.
I did hide. Mainly behind my hair. I let it grow long thinking that I could cover more of my body, face. I got over that when I started college. But I still had issues. I just didn’t talk about them. I wasn’t one of those girls constantly complaining to her friends, “I’m so fat. I really need to go on a diet.”
In fact, I never went on a diet. I did change my bad eating habits, with some success. Then I’d lapse back into frequently skipping breakfast and other meals. I added regular exercise, like jogging at the high school track by my apartment. I lost weight, but it wasn’t my immediate goal. I just wanted to jog.
I gained weight again when I started graduate school. Suddenly the jeans I’d been wearing since I was 21 no longer fit. No one said anything about, except an uncle in Guanajuato. I commented that my young cousins had grown a lot. My tío quipped, “y tú también.” Ouch.
I never made a sustained effort because I was scared of failing. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail, right?
I finally tried and faced the possibility of success or failure.
I signed up for Weight Watchers in January. For the first week, I kept my decision to myself, even though I knew I should ask for help from my family and close friends. I figured that possible failure would be worse if my family and close friends knew.
I broke down at my second meeting after seeing the new, lower number of the scale. I had to share my mini-victory and called my dad.
“Great! I’m so proud of you, mija,” he said in the warm and tender tone he reserves for these type of father/daughter moments. It was the same tone he used when I called him at work to tell him I’d just been admitted to UCLA and UC Berkeley after being crushed when I was not admitted to my “safety school,” UC San Diego.
I’ve kept my circle of support small so far, just family and DB. I’m not sure I need much more as my parents are the best cheerleaders I can ask for and the siblings can be pseudo personal trainers. As for DB, he’s been understanding and supportive… even as I’ve let out my frustrations on him.
I’m doing good so far. Now, if I could only get a hang of this breakfast thing.