Photo by tan8b/FlickrCC
This winter, a writer living in Washington, D.C. underwent gastric bypass surgery, which he discusses in this ongoing series, written in real time.
"Wait...was that guy just looking at me? He can't have...No, I'm still too fat for that. He's still looking. Not smiling. But he doesn't look disgusted...he knows I'm looking at him, and he's not looking away. Huh."
You'll pardon me, I hope, for the Glenn Beckian internal dialog I'm sharing, but my mental cartography brings me full circle. At a support group, I mentioned to some fellow bariatric patients that I had noticed--or thought I had noticed--that people were looking at me differently. When I was fat, I avoided meeting people's gaze. That's because I felt that I did not want to subject them to my ugliness. Occasionally, I would glance at a pretty person, but the moment the person glanced back--there is a spooky action at a distance at work in the glance dance--I would snap my head and look in a neutral direction. Gay men notice each other this way; I had trouble, as a single gay man, finding the confidence to participate in this elaborate and vital mating ritual.
Trouble is, my visual disability extended beyond the realm of dating and courting. In any crowd of people, in a group conversation, in an interview, I always got the sense that my counterpart or counterparts were doing their best not to look at me. Why? Because they considered me to be ugly. And humans don't like to look at ugly things.