It was a Sunday, bright and hot and sunny, and despite a difficult morning I was feeling good. I’d just had my final session with a fantastic therapist I’d been seeing for almost two years. With her help I’d worked through some things I thought I’d never have the courage to face. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who changed your life so profoundly, and even though it was a professional relationship, there was real emotion and affection there at the end of our time together. She was leaving her sporadic private practice for a full time job with benefits at the VA. We shared tears over our parting, and excitement for her new adventure. Getting a secure gig would allow her wife to quit her dull day job and make a go of turning their shared home into a rescue hostel for abused pets. My loss was to the gain of many furry little friends, and I couldn’t help but be happy for them, even as I was mourning the end of one of the most productive therapeutic relationships I’ve ever had. My eyes were red and puffy, but I was smiling, which is the best you can ask when you lose someone you rely on.
My Sunday mornings are crowded affairs at this point in my life. I have therapy bright and early, then a half-hour break, then my yoga class. It is my custom to swing through Dunkin Donuts on my way to class, because it is convenient to my therapist’s office and after an hour of letting her rummage around in my skull I usually want a treat. The promise of iced coffee is all that has gotten me through some of these sessions, and there is no iced coffee I love more than Dunkin Donuts. I only lived on the East coast for a brief and unhappy time, but during that stay I developed a thirst for Dunkin Donuts iced coffee that rivals a vampire’s thirst for blood. I lived around the block from a DD in Baltimore, and by the time I moved away my sweat smelled like hazelnut. (Honestly, it was an improvement). On this particular day I was sorely in need of a pick me up, so I grabbed an apple fritter as well.
I was dressed as I usually am for yoga; black leggings, a long lightweight tank top, a supportive-if-flattening sports bra, and sandals. No makeup, as sweat and eyeliner are a poisonous eyebath and the sort of vibrant blood-red lip color I favor ends up making my yoga mat look like I murdered someone on top of it. For the record, I was also wearing a hat.
This is a lot of boring detail, I know. There was nothing interesting about what I was doing that day, or what I was wearing. Which is why I was surprised to see a young white dude surreptitiously taking my photo from a perch by the pick-up window.
It was unmistakable. The lens of the camera was pointed right at me, he was looking at the screen intently, hunched down like the Formica counter was some kind of excellent camouflage, and his thumb was pressing the home button. My suspicion was confirmed when I glared into the lens that was pointed at me- an angry eye for an angry eye -and he jumped.
“Did you just take a photo of me? What the fuck, dude?” I snapped.
He stood up quickly, bright red. “Sorry.”
He didn’t deny what he’d done. He didn’t seem to feel an apology was merited. He muttered a half-hearted acknowledgement in a tone that I’m sure his parents and teachers have had plenty of opportunity to grow weary of over the years: the apology of someone who is only sorry that they were caught.
I wish I’d done more, now. I wish I’d demanded he hand over his phone, forced him to delete the photo, taken a photo of my own for public shaming purposes. I wish I’d stomped his stupid phone into plastic shards and glass dust. I wish I’d throw a coffee right in his weaselly little face. But I was taken aback by his lack of shame, and stunned into inaction by the oddness of it all. So he walked away, and now there is a photo of me sweating and crying and eating a donut on some stranger’s iPhone, and there is nothing I can do about it.
You may feel that I overreacted. And maybe I did! Maybe there are a thousand innocent reasons a complete fucking stranger would use a take out counter like a duck blind to snap a secret photo of me. But I find that hard to believe, because I am incredibly fat, and I have been navigating this world in this body for a long time. I am accustomed to the ways it attracts attention to me, and that attention is rarely kind. Secret photos are only the latest expression of a truism I’ve known since I was young: when you’re fat, your body belongs to everybody else but you, and everybody feels entitled to give you shit about it.