“You keep saying how you're losing weight, and then you come and sit on our bench,” my friends laughed at me in July. We meet every year at the forest cabin and discuss all sorts of things. The bench was rotten and even though the accident happened among great friends and could have happened to any of us, I was still embarrassed.
That I am ashamed of my body because of my obesity no longer seems strange to me over the years. But it wasn't always that way. In elementary school, we took the bus to the swimming pool. The teachers put us in groups according to ability and tried to improve us through practice. I enjoyed it. Even ball games like soccer, dodgeball or volleyball. I also did skiing. I didn't learn to ski, but I didn't feel bad. Every holiday I went to the swimming pool every day with my friends and enjoyed the summer.
In high school it was different. I didn't feel comfortable in my new team. I started avoiding gym class until I stopped going altogether. It bothered me to change and shower. I was ashamed. I was glad I didn't have to go to summer and winter training classes. I was afraid to go to dance classes because no one would want to learn to dance with me. So I preferred not to sign up. I also had a problem with showering in the dorm's communal bathrooms.
I was embarrassed at my doctor's office, too. I don't know exactly how old I was at the time, but I should have had a regular checkup. Unfortunately, my doctor only had a scale in her office, the needle of which ended at 100 kilos. I had to walk half undressed through the waiting room to another room where there was a scale that could weigh me.
Avoiding uncomfortable situations where I would go to see the spats became a routine for me. Limiting myself is easier than dealing with the cause of shame - obesity. In a group of teenagers, I have also accepted the role of a target that is easy to hit with an insult.
Subconsciously, I still avoid situations where I have to reveal my body. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin even on a hot day when I'm wearing only a T-shirt. My favorite thing to wear is a hoodie. When I spontaneously jumped into the water two years ago, my girlfriend was surprised. “I thought you were afraid of water and couldn't swim,“ she told me in the water. I'm not surprised. I've sometimes said that about myself to avoid swimming pools. I overcame my shame after ten years and swam in the Vltava River.
Maybe it would have helped if someone had offered to help me. But would I listen? Maybe I should have thought about myself. When I moved to Prague, there was a diet clinic a few meters from my apartment. For a year, I was determined to walk in. I was afraid I'd be stripped, measured, weighed and evaluated. “How could he let it get this far? Can't they see what he looks like?” they might have thought of me. And so I never stepped inside.
“I've been troubled by a lot of things in my life, most of which never happened,” Mark Twain said. It's likely that they meet people more obese than I was. But my fear and shame was - and still is - stronger.