I’ve been planning this post since August 22nd. August 22nd at 10:45pm to be exact, because after 5 years of walking on a Portland to Coast relay team, and constantly fearing I would be heckled for not looking “athletic”… it finally happened.
Good job, Chubby!
It was yelled out at me by a woman, though the open window of her old red pick-up truck, as she passed me on a dark country highway in the middle of the Oregon Coast Range.
I stared after her until her tail lights disappeared around a bend in the road, trying to make her words into anything other than what I had heard. I had been awake since 4:30am, had already walked my first four mile leg, and was now walking my second four mile leg on about 3 hours of combined sleep. Alone in the dark, I tried desperately to keep my confused feelings in check, because it was like getting a compliment while simultaneously being slapped in the face… I guess I’d never truly understood the ‘backhanded compliment’ until that very moment.
And then my inner dialogue took over:
“Hmm. So this is what if feels like. Five years of dreading this moment, and on my final walk, it finally happens. It was kind of a compliment and she yelled it with such gusto, but it felt like an insult… but she did say ‘chubby’ instead of ‘fatso’ … so… nope, still an insult. I just got heckled by a stranger, on a backwoods country road in the middle of the night. Yeah, good job, chubby indeed. I knew I shouldn’t have done this stupid race again! Every year I swear I’m going to lose weight, but I never do. Never! Don’t freak out. Keep walking. Do. Not. Freak. Out. … But I AM chubby. I AM CHUBBY. That really is the truth. I am chubby, and everyone knows it. Chubby girl walking! That’s me. And I AM doing a good job. I am chubby and I am walking in the Portland to Coast for the fifth year in a row! Screw you, backwoods country girl! I’d like to see you out here! Good job, indeed! Yes, good job to me! I am chubby and I am doing a great freaking job! GOOD JOB, CHUBBY!!! YEAH!!”
And with that, I threw my fist in the air, and decided to accept the backhanded compliment from the mean country girl, and get on with my life… I win.
I’m actually really surprised this isn’t more of a story about how I curled up in a mud-filled ditch and cried my hurt feelings to sleep until a search party found me in the pink light of dawn… because that’s really what I had been expecting I would do if it had ever happened in the previous four years. It’s interesting what you learn about yourself in the moments following your fears actually coming true.
I’ve sworn to everyone who will listen to me that this would absolutely be my last year on a team. Five seems like a good place to stop. It’s more than most people ever do, and I’m happy with that accomplishment.
I expect you’ll see me with a sixth medal next year.