Dogs are lucky because they don’t wear pants.

My dog, Donut, usually waits until I crash onto the couch, exhausted from grocery shopping, to notice I exist. Grocery shopping is my least favorite chore, so I’m really not in the mood to socialize with my otherwise senile, curmudgeonly canine when he keeps me up after a trip to the store. 

The other day after grocery shopping, I was asleep and somewhat curled up on the couch, my legs bent. This arrangement threw off Donut’s usual annoyingness, because he couldn’t figure out how to comfortably “snuggle” with me (a.k.a. steal my body heat shamelessly). So he stepped his front legs (which I call his arms) over my legs and just stood there, his nose an inch from my face. Then, apparently dissatisfied with that attempt, he tried to come in backwards, with just his back legs (as in, his actual legs) stepped over mine instead. 

Have I mentioned that Donut is not a small dog? So it’s not surprising that his corpulence didn’t fit behind my knees, even though he tried multiple angles of approach. He jumped down and laid his head insistently on the small spot of upholstery he desired. He groaned audibly to make his distress clear and did his best poor puppy eyes in an effort to evoke my pity. But I’m over his puppy eyes, I have been for a long time. I know Donut’s ways. He never likes walking as much as sticking his butt in my face during the only ten minutes I try to sleep during the day. It’s like there’s some sort of doggie bat signal plugged into my eyelids.

Grocery shopping really tires me out, no matter how easy I try to make it. I biked for a whole hour the day before getting groceries and needed no nap. Twenty-four hours later, I was done in by pushing a cart around a store. I felt so exhausted that I asked Cory to help me unload the car, only to discover that other than lots of chicken legs, which were on sale, I had only three half-full bags of other groceries. So I brought everything inside before he arrived and asked him to move the chicken from the kitchen counter to the freezer instead (the freezer is, as you might expect, not very far from the counter). This justified him coming upstairs, in my mind.

Donut gave up for a short while, like two minutes, then returned to continue availing himself of my personal space. He squeezed his butt between my kneecaps and the back of the couch. I should note, because my knees were bent, Donut had a good four square feet to work with on the other end, but he settled in this tiny crevice nonetheless.

I wonder if Donut has realized that he’s not the only one in our household who has gained weight during the pandemic. Maybe he used to be able to fit behind my knees on the couch and now he doesn’t, which would explain his confusing antics. One of the great injustices of chronic pain is that ordinary-people problems, like aching joints and gaining weight, don’t pass you by. There is no page limit on your medical record, and what’s worse is there’s not even discounts when you purchase health issues in bulk. When my migraines flare, I often let myself eat anything I want until I feel better. I’ve learned the hard way to keep ice cream and such out of the house, to limit my options in trying times. But I recently took drastic measures and switched to eating salad for lunch until I can fit into my clothes again. 

This isn’t the first time my clothes don’t fit since my migraines started, but it was the other way around before. Just over a year ago, I weighed thirty-five pounds less than I do now. It was a result of being stressed, sometimes having no appetite, and being triggered by many, many foods. Eating out was an impossibility for months because I got migraines from so many basic ingredients. It was simpler to eat roughly the same thing every day, and to eat it at home in the dark instead of out amongst bright, annoying lights (this was before COVID, when dining inside a restaurant was a thing). After a few months of migraines is when I noticed that my favorite red pants didn’t fit, and that I had dropped an entire clothing size. So in late 2019, I took to wearing yoga pants all of the time. I’m such a trendsetter.

What most surprises me, looking back, is how much worse I felt about being underweight than I feel now about being a bit overweight. I’m sure my general migraine misery played into how I felt about myself back then, when I couldn’t wear my favorite red pants, but that’s not the entire story. I remember getting a lot of comments on how skinny I had become, and none of them carried a positive tone. There’s a big difference between a friend saying, “You’re so skinny!” versus them saying, “You’re too skinny!” Every comment was likely well-intended, an expression of genuine concern, but each one always hit me like a ton of bricks nonetheless. 

If my migraines made me gain weight instead of lose it, I think I would have heard fewer comments on my appearance. Our society has established norms around obesity, to the extent that most people understand that telling someone they’re fat is usually not okay. How come, then, it’s okay to tell someone they’re skinny, but not good skinny? I had less control over my weight when I was skinny than I do now that I’m not-so-skinny, so these comments were, to me, just another form of needless reminder about how unhealthy I was.

Speaking of things I can’t control, after a few more minutes of Donut’s careful maneuvering, I somehow ended up perched on the edge of the couch and the dog ended up stretched out all over it, surrounded by all of his favorite toys. I was awake, grumpy from grocery shopping and being chubby, and I had a headache. And to make matters worse, I was thinking about salad. Do walnuts pair well with tomatoes? Does an apple salad with dried apples and apple dressing break some unwritten rule about how much apple you can put in a single bowl?

While I wondered these things, Donut was asleep, probably dreaming about chicken legs. 

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