Larger Yet Smaller

Sarah Bigham



           It is the secret shame for those of us whose waistlines have expanded from gestating; or ingesting products from big pharma that keep some symptoms at bay while coming in for the metabolism kill; or responding to wonky chemical signals from glands in our brains, near our throats, or atop our kidneys; or from simply preparing for a hibernation we cannot yet envision. We stand or we lie or we crouch for doctors or treatments or fittings when the topic is raised.

           Could you hold it up. . . please? asked a chiropractor attempting to temper my pain by using the brightly-colored tape seen on athletes intent on protecting knees, muscles, shoulders, and ribs. An athlete I am not.

           Oh, this, I said, getting her reference. I call this my lower chub. And you want to tape it to my upper chub. Go for it! I encouraged and compliantly pressed my two chubs toward one another as she, size 4-ish, stood agape before realizing I was smiling, and then she began to laugh. So hard was she laughing that the tape could not be applied in any semblance of a straight line, but no matter. Crookedness suits me.

           I am twice the size I was in college, not because of donuts or general sloth or binge-watching habits, but primarily because of medical situations I have worked valiantly to address. I have been asked to lift this skin or move that to the left or hold this part up just a bit or see if you can work around your belly as I am poked and prodded, measured and sized. Each time, I do what is asked, clutching the chub and kneading it somewhere.

           Not by happenstance are the majority of my medical providers female. They understand. Even the tiny ones. They get body shame and self-loathing and how, as a woman, you become invisible as you escalate in age and girth.

           And then the ultimate indignity, a male doctor who lifted it himself. No asking. No eye contact. No smile. No bonding look of I get it, it’s awkward, we all have parts that jiggle. He just picked it up, glanced underneath and dropped it back down, like a glob of soft tofu.

           That night, I search. What is “it” called when medical folks speak among themselves—something more specific than obesity and more official-sounding than pooch or chub.

           Then I find it in an online discussion.

           They call it an apron.

           Of course they do.

           And now it all makes sense.


Sarah Bigham teaches, paints, and writes in Maryland where she lives with her kind, chemist wife, their three independent cats, and an unwieldy herb garden. Her work appears in Bacopa, Entropy, Fourth & Sycamore, Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, Rabbit, skirt! Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her at