I’ve gained some weight recently.

(I can sense the women reading this nodding sympathetically.)

It took me a little while to realize it, because gradual change can be hard to see when it’s your own body. But one day I noticed my clothes weren’t fitting the way they were supposed to, so I sought a second opinion and asked my boyfriend.

Fun fact: I have literally seen deer in the headlights of my car before, and yet I have never seen such a deer-in-headlights expression as my boyfriend had when I asked him, “Hey, honey, do you think I’ve gained some weight?” I suspect his brain shut down in self-preservation as he instinctively sensed, like so many men might, that there was no right answer.

After I slowly calmed him down, he did agree that I had developed “a bit of a tum.” And indeed, I have developed a bit of a tum.

It’s not surprising – over the past six months, while watching my father die of cancer, I’ve binged on more than my fair share of wine and chocolate. My friend Grace pointed out that I’ve had a pretty good reason. And before he died, my father lost about one-third of his body weight, and he wasn’t particularly large to begin with. So maybe I was subconsciously trying to counter that. Also, I put way too much sugar in my coffee, because my lactose intolerance forbids me from cutting the bitter stuff with creamer.

Most people would agree that I’m not fat, although you probably can’t tell through a 1-inch-by-1-inch headshot. And I can’t believe I even feel like I need to say that, as if there were something wrong with being fat. Because there’s not! My mother is fat and she is perfectly healthy and very beautiful. As a bisexual woman, I myself find women with squishy stomachs attractive. (I also like women with abs. Call me, Megan Rapinoe.) Therefore, I should be perfectly happy with my own squishier stomach, right?

Wrong. The patriarchy has invaded my brain. I feel like I’ve failed somehow. My body hasn’t noticeably changed since puberty (and boy, that was a change). Now here I am, with added blubber just in time to hibernate for winter. I don’t know the numbers of this gain – we haven’t had a scale in my house since our dog broke it in 2001. (He wasn’t fat. Just rambunctious.) I only know that it’s noticeable, and that society wants me to feel bad about it so it can sell me Spanx and diet pills and celery.

But I’m fighting back, darn it! After all, this is Maine. The more body heat you can produce, the better a long-term mate you make – and since my boyfriend and my girlfriend are slim, I am happy to serve as their personal toaster. And, let’s be real – no matter what movies and magazines show, having a flat stomach as a woman is mostly a matter of genetic luck. (If you are that lucky: Congratulations. Has your mutation also given you superpowers?) We’re built to carry children, and to survive famines. Our bodies gain and distribute fat to achieve that goal.

I am going to try to eat healthier, because a diet of wine and carbs, while fun, isn’t, you know, healthy. I also plan to start working out again, but not to lose this weight. Because my jiggly stomach doesn’t need to get lost. I need to work out because yesterday, my dog beat me in a sprint across the yard, and he’s a 12-year-old shih tzu with a pin in his hips.

The other night, my mother and I started grabbing our guts and belly-laughing, doing our best Jabba the Hutt imitation (“Solo! Too Nakma Noya Solo!”). My sister, who is tall and willowy, walked in and tried to grab her abs. “Can I pretend to be a Hutt?”

Why, yes you can, Jabba Jr. All are welcome.

So, mean people on the internet can feel free to call me fat. I’m still cute. But my added weight just makes me a better tackle.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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