The first Wednesday of every month, this momma gets a night out on the town. My guide dog Frances and I walk 15 blocks to a local catering hall where we attend a Soroptimist meeting. Sometimes having a guide dog is a lot like having a toddler, meaning you better make sure you relieve your dog before you get ready to sit through a three-hour dinner. It’s not unusual to catch Franny and I frequenting her favorite grassy spot before we enter the building. That’s exactly what we were doing when we were approached by a woman coming out of the local bank.
“What a beautiful dog!”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Why does she have the leather thing on?”
“She’s a guide dog.”
“A guide dog? Like for a blind person? Are you blind?”
“Yes, I am blind. This is Frances, my guide dog.”
“Oh wow! I’ve never met a blind person before or an actual guide dog.”
I could tell her enthusiasm would most likely make me late for my meeting.
“Where are you both heading tonight? Do you need any help?”
“No thanks, just going across the street. Franny can get me there.”
“Oh, you have an event tonight?
“A meeting, actually.”
“So that explains the fancy attire. I love that shirt.”
Frances continued making her tiny circles, preparing to squat, when the woman walked closer. “But did you know your back fat is showing? I just wanted to tell you in case you were unaware.”
I felt like I was having an outer body experience. My mind was spinning and I swear on my life even Frances was glaring at this lady in disbelief, as if to say, “Oh no you didn’t.”
Unaware? Was this woman fricken’ for real?
I was stunned by her ignorance — absolutely floored.
Yes, I am blind. Yes, I have back fat.
I also have front fat.
I have dimples is places there “should be no” dimpling.
I have a double chin — quite possibly a triple. But who’s counting?
I have crow’s feet.
And middle age acne.
I’ve also been known to have the occasional chin hair. (Just because I can’t see them, doesn’t mean I can’t feel those little suckers.)
I have saddle bags.
And a good extra 20 pounds around my mid section.
Trust me; I am aware.
But here’s what this person doesn’t know about the body she was so quick to criticize.
This body has survived cancer.
It has been poked.
This body has been through biopsies.
And has had enough radiation to quite possibly glow in the dark.
This body has carried two children… to term. Survived 10 months of pregnancy. And was cut open during two C-sections.
This body did what doctors thought was impossible; it has survived.
These eyes she thinks can’t see “back fat” once had 20/20 vision.
Cancer and radiation robbed me.
My eyesight was stolen from me.
And that same, monstrous disease also stole my hair, leaving me to live with post-chemotherapy alopecia.
I can only assume she was unaware that I was also wearing a wig that evening.
Every single day of my life, this body lives in pain.
My vision continues to decline.
I am in chronic, constant discomfort.
But this body needs to keep going because I have two daughters to raise.
I have a husband who needs me.
I have a community that I’m a part of.
So I force my legs into motion.
I muster the the strength to grip my guide dog’s harness.
And there are many times I’ve needed to say a silent prayer just so I can make it through the day.
As for my “back fat,” neither my children or my husband seem to notice when they wrap their arms around me.
I am aware that I am squishy in many places. However, I like to think my extra “squish” makes for softer snuggles.
After everything I’ve been through, my family doesn’t care what I look like, they just thank God that I am alive.
My Response to “Back Fat”:
I looked at this woman, right in the face.
“Can I ask you something? Would you have told a sighted woman who you just met on the street she had back fat?”
“Well, no. I just assumed you didn’t know because you’re blind. I wasn’t trying to insult you.”
“Well ma’am, you did exactly that. Yes, I am blind. Yes, I have back fat. Trust me, I am aware. But I would much rather live with my back fat than be ignorant; because the way you just treated me was the height of ignorance. Just in case you were unaware.”
With that, I grabbed Frances’ harness and we walked across the street to our destination. I held my head high and marched my “back fat” right into that meeting. I felt proud of me. I felt proud of my imperfect body, but mostly I had felt proud of my response to the woman I had encountered that evening. Beauty fades, ignorance is forever, and you don’t need perfect vision to see that.
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