Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

After a full day of third-grade, my job is to hit record on the VCR at 3:57 pm and wait patiently for Mom to come home from her secretary job. She will open the mail, make dinner, check the messages, and resume the laundry. Dad will arrive with grease-monkey fingers and ask me to unlace his work boots to pull off his stinky socks. Later, when Mom’s put away the last of the dishes and he is snoring in the blue recliner, we’ll change the channel and press Play. 

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Katie McClearyComment
Chemistry Lesson

In 1995, my chemistry teacher, Mr. Clemmons, recited the Periodic Table of Elements like Whitman, fought wildfires in the summer, and had a white picket fence smile. The sounds his mouth made were full of laughter, kindness, and of course… science! Mr. Clemmons should have been on posters, in his underwear with a firehose in one hand and a beaker of red liquid in the other.  I’ve always been hot for teacher. Beyond Mr. Clemmon’s physicality, his confidence was truly his sexiest power— he could flame the fire high or extinguish it all together with not only his braun, but his brains, too. One day, a woman came in to drop something off. Blond, cute, well dressed, effervescent, and…totally fat. Me-sized fat. 

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The Promised Land

At the age of 9, I boarded the Someday Train with a harmless Slim Fast shake for breakfast. I crept deeper into the rail cars at 14 holding the hand of my frenemy, Jenny Craig, and by 17 was promiscuous with all the weight-loss railcars, forking over money (I didn’t really have) to deliver me unto The Promised Land. 

Ah, the Promised Land— a Utopia built from scenes constructed in the twisted alleys of your brain. You’ve tried navigating the darkness on your own, with a half-dead flashlight, gripping both your shame and desire tight in one hand like a lifeline while being dragged down by a purse stuffed with glossy magazines, ghost stories, and a music box of voices that love to tell you how much they hate you, your skin, and body when you open the lid. We’re pulled through the journey by an alluring whisper: you can have it all… love, success, family, wealth, adventure, and beauty….

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The Woman I Become

Cliff was gregarious and kind and hefty and shared my love of stuffed animals except his were taxidermies and displayed on walls like art and mine were synthetic and fake like the silicone implants of those women’s breasts which were everywhere inside the glossy pages, but I was seven and didn’t know about plastic surgery and airbrushing and so I sat on the toilet of a stranger’s house who was not really a stranger and yet became strange at a moment when I felt strangeness descend upon me and I felt the excitement of being scared and naughty while being curious and confused and consumed by seeing something I’d never seen women doing before and these women looked like my mom and they were draped across chairs, landscapes, and beds,

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I am a haunted woman, by none other than me, myself, and the 130+ pounds of flesh that I melted away. 

I take small comfort in her existing as a spirit outside my current body, because, honestly, where does 130 pounds go? They say we breathe out the melted fat, as an exhalation over time…  maybe I breathed her a new home. The old Katie, like a feral beast, living out her rebel days amongst the flora and fauna in cold landscapes where she will never sweat. She is at peace in her green cocoon of quiet. Nobody calls her fat. Nobody gives her pep talks. Nobody underestimates her. Nobody tells her she isn’t good enough. But sometimes she slinks back in anger to eat my scraps of self-doubt, pain, and backstory. I owe her an apology. She didn’t deserve how I and others treated her. 

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