Early 2002 saw me temping, until I found a full time job working for the Government Office in Cambridge, in around April. I spent most of the first half of 2002 in some sort of diet-related panic as I’d been asked to be a bridesmaid to ‘L’, who was marrying ‘P’ in July. Husband #2 and I had also booked a holiday to Zante, one of the Greek islands, and I wanted to be able to wear a swimming costume (note: no way was I considering a bikini) without feeling utterly self conscious.
I faffed about with a few attempts at diets, and as expected, as a generous size 18, was utterly humiliated when I paid good money for a dress to wear to the very expensive, very upmarket wedding of my two (then) best friends. They only did ‘normal’ size dresses up to a 14, and if I wanted to wear the same dress as the other two bridesmaids, I would have to pay more for the privilege of having a large arse. Gee, way to make a girl feel special. That extra few inches of fabric must make ALL the difference. Although the bride’s father was paying towards the dress, I had to chip in half of it, and with money being tight after the annus horriblis, I wasn’t impressed at having to pay more than everyone else for exactly the same dress.
This led me to the “Oh shit, I’m going to be a bridesmaid” panic diet of summer 2002. In my desperation to look less enormous, I decided to invest in large amounts of Slimfast products. I bought the tubs of powder, the soups, the bars and the ready made shakes and I duly swapped two meals a day for disgusting meal replacements laced with so many chemicals and so much fibre that my poor insides didn’t know what had hit them. Things came to a head one day when I hadn’t been in my new job for very long. I think it was the meal replacement bars that finally sent my bowels into meltdown, and after some uncomfortable shifting in my seat while I clenched every muscle in my abdomen, I made my way to the ladies thinking the coast was clear.
I just about made it in time, and I don’t think I have ever farted so violently, loudly or copiously in my life. I got the discomfort out of my system, settled myself and left the cubicle, only to find, to my horror, that the Regional Director – the manager of the entire organisation – was standing at the sink. And had presumably heard EVERYTHING. She was thankfully much too polite to comment and the incident was, as far as I know, never spoken of again.
I decided Slim FART wasn’t for me after that, although I still quite liked the vanilla and coffee drinks so I sneakily swapped one of those for breakfast most days. By the time of the wedding I’d lost about a stone through panic-induced semi-starvation and I looked quite pretty. The dress was lovely, although I put my stiletto heel through the skirt and could never wear it again after that. Husband #2 was usher, and husband #1 was a guest as he knew L & P. He was there with his girlfriend and she looked really nervous, but I thought she seemed nice. We actually had a chat, and it was so lovely to feel like we were ‘OK’ after things had ended so spectacularly badly six years earlier.
Of course, I put all the weight back during two weeks in Zante, but for a while there I was back under 14 stone and my size 18 jeans were loose…
I was still writing the occasional freelance article for Spa Plus and other magazines, so when I was asked if I wanted to go to Champneys in Tring, and take a friend, I was chuffed to bits. I chose to go with one of my new workmates, Katie, who I’d hit it off with. We had a brilliant time, pretending to be posh when we quite blatantly weren’t, and in my case also disgracing myself at the Champagne reception for the spa’s new owners by freaking out when I was being hounded by a wasp and almost falling backwards into a rosebush.
The trip was amazing, and Katie and I even managed to get drunk. At Champneys. Well, the press trip was a freebie, and we decided we’d treat ourselves to a bottle of wine with dinner. And then another. Rules were that you couldn’t take drinks out of the dining room, so we just spent three hours over dinner and staggered back to our room slightly tipsy. It was a great trip – but the first time I remember truly feeling what I call ‘impostor syndrome’ – where I questioned myself about whether I really belonged there, and admonished myself for thinking I was good enough to deserve a trip to a posh spa. I loved it but I didn’t feel as if I fitted in at all. What made me so special?
Husband #2 and I still hadn’t set a wedding date. In fact we rarely talked about it. I’d mentioned kids – I had a bit of a scare but deep down thinking I might have been pregnant didn’t actually scare me as much as it did him. He was still saying he wasn’t ready, but I was starting to think that I might be. Typically, I tried not to rock the boat, scared that a confrontation on the issue would end in me being wrong, and/or single.
Most of the second half of 2002 revolved around ‘L’ who had been diagnosed with MS. It was horrible for everyone – and at that point H #2 and I did talk about getting married so that she could be there. At the time it seemed reasonable – knowing what I know now it seems bloody typical that the only thing that could galvanise him into wanting to marry me was to keep ‘L’ happy. but never mind. We couldn’t afford it anyway as he wanted us to do it abroad, so that my parents wouldn’t be able to afford to come. Again I agreed. I was such a freaking doormat, but I did it to keep the peace, because in all honesty, it was easier than having the wedding in the UK and telling them they couldn’t come; or having them there and H #2 refusing to speak to them.
By the end of 2002 I’d put every bit of weight on that I lost for the wedding, with interest. And I was GOING to do something about it. Again. Are you seeing a pattern…?