Meeting the President When You Feel Fat

I am what you would call an emotional eater. I eat when I’m stressed. I eat when I’m angry. I also eat when I’m happy; one time after sex, I actually picked a fight with someone I loved,  just so I could have an excuse to get out of bed and go get a bucket of chicken.But for me, 2011 will always be the year of sad eating; the most destructive eating of all. It was a very bad year for me, chock full of personal and professional disappointments. And I managed to gain about 30 pounds, which I think is the size of a pygmy goat. So I basically ended the year feeling like a boa constrictor who has just swallowed a small goat.  Whole.When my sister invited me to go to a White House Christmas party as her date, the first thing I wished I could do was travel back in time and spend about six months living in one of those  M.C. Escher paintings – the ones with the endless staircases. Because while I have no empathy for people who voluntarily use Stairmasters at the gym, if one lived in an M.C. Escher painting, she would have no choice but to tighten that ass.

But I live in Astoria and not in a psychedelic painting, and was left with two options: stay home and feel like a loser, or go to the party and still feel like a loser, but one who gets to drink a lot of champagne and meet President Obama.

I decided that the second option was marginally better, although I worried about the supposed “highlight” of the evening – an official picture taken with the president and first lady. I mean, that sort of picture isn’t something you hide in a drawer; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime highlight, a Christmas card. And it would also serve as a lifetime reminder of the 30 lbs I gained after a tough year.

I don’t know how exactly it happened. Maybe it was  the anticipation of  getting out of New York City and away from my problems for a couple days.  Or maybe it was when I realized that I needed to purchase a meet the president dress.

But somewhere along the line, I  realized there was nothing I could do. There was no miracle diet, no suck-it-in corset, no magical amulet that would make me lose my pygmy in time. So the only thing to do was embrace my body the way it was.

Instead of trying to hide my new-found curves in something black, or cover myself up in something tent-like and shapeless, I decided to wear something that expressed my inner bombshell. I got a pin-up girl style red strapless number that worked The Twins (that’s what I call my boobs) overtime. I painted my nails and lips red.

And here’s the cool part – instead of worrying about it, I gave myself permission to really enjoy the party. I drank champagne and spiked eggnog, snacked on cracked crab, and had hearty helpings of just about every cake or pie in the joint.I met a bunch of smart, sharp-witted people who enjoyed the novelty of talking politics with a comedian, instead of another boring politico. I flirted with servicemen. And of course, I had the best date – my sister – who can make me laugh more than just about anyone.And then came the moment I’d been dreading: the picture. After being ushered through a line, we got about two minutes with the president and first lady. It was surreal. President Obama hugged me. And just as we were coming out of that hug, the photographer snapped the picture. I look a little dazzled (I was). And I have my back to both my sister and Michelle Obama.

It isn’t my best moment in a photograph. But it’s a moment I’ll never forget.

As we were walking away, Michelle Obama said “You girls are gorgeous!”

I don’t know if she meant it, but it’s really gone to my pygmy goat’s head.

You can read more from Sherry Parnes on her blog.

(Image via Shutterstock).

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