But what if…?

So my worries about the surgery go as follows:

  1. My hospital appointment is at 6:30 am. What if I sleep in and miss it?
  2. Apparently they pump air into your digestive system while they operate so you get horrible trapped wind and you’re going to need to do GIANT BURPS afterwards.
  3. What if I die?
  4. What if I fail to do this pre-operative liver shrinking diet and they refuse to operate? It feels so cruel to me, to tell someone who has tried and failed at losing weight all their lives that the solution to this problem is dependent on me not doing the thing that I can’t not do. Seriously, keep your fingers crossed for me that I follow the diet.
  5. What if I wake up after my general anaesthetic and in my woozy state start texting my friends and telling them how much I fancy them/hate their boyfriends/want to marry them/hate them/am passionately in love with them?
  6. So much of my identity and personality and thoughts and dreams and life are and have been about trying to lose weight. What if I can’t find anything to replace that? What if I feel empty without the struggle? What if I don’t feel like me?
  7. What if it hurts? (It will.)
  8. What if I’m one of the 5% of people who don’t actually lose the weight?
  9. What if the fat down below is gone but my willy doesn’t get any longer?
  10. What if I’ve already done so much damage to my joints that I’ll need to have hip/knee replacement operations in my forties anyway?
  11. I know this is ridiculous, but WHAT IF THIN PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS TOO? I’ve spent all my life envying thin people and not really sure that they have ever suffered and I know that of course they do suffer, but because I blame literally every problem I’ve ever had ever on my weight, I tend to view thinness as an unproblematic state. I know that’s not true. I know I won’t stop being Connor, with whatever faults and failings that involves, but that’s not how the dream of thinness goes.

I’m still excited. It seems completely unreal, but it’s happening. I’m being given the chance to re-write my story. To be reborn. To not have my whole life be about this any more. I have to pinch myself every so often.

What is life like if you never wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe because your neck fat is literally choking you? What is it like not to have constant pain (my hips are screaming)? What is it like not to break chairs? What is it like to be able to sit up in bed without any hoisting involved? What’s it like to not have to ask yourself whether someone is attracted to you because a fat man touched them when they were eleven, but maybe they like you because they like you? What’s it like not to have to worry that mothers will have to discipline their children and make them cry in shopping centres or on buses because they called me a fatty?

I’m being given a new chance. I’m terrified. But I’m much more excited than I am terrified.

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I drank too many pints of cider the other night. And we got to talking about my surgery and one of my friends said that she didn’t want me to not be Connor any more after I become skinny and gorgeous.

I mean, I kind of hope I’m not Connor any more after the op. I want to be like Jesus after his transfiguration. I want to be like Jade Goody after she learned not to be a racist bully. I want a complete rebranding.

I’ve read a lot about identity and I remember being depressed to realise that we probably are just products of our time and place in culture and history, that we’re not unique, free-thinking individuals who can choose our own paths. At one stage, I got really interested in the idea of changing sex as a means of self-creation. And I kind of look at this operation as an act of self-creation. It’s maybe not as radical as gender reassignment, but it makes me feel like the author of my own destiny. I’m building a new generation of Connor. Shinier and better than the first.

I think my friend was worried that thin Connor wouldn’t be as fun, wouldn’t be as larger-than-life. I won’t be as large. And I won’t drink as much cider. But anyone who knew me when I was losing all that weight in 2007 will know I was less reserved, less likely to just stay at home and avoid the world. Even in recent times, I’ve been in London for two years – in the first year, I lost a lot of weight and I had a lot of sexual adventures and did things I never thought I’d do before. This year, I’ve gained a lot of weight and started withdrawing into myself again, avoiding social occasions and flirting with men online but not actually meeting them. I think thin Connor is demonstrably more fun than fat Connor. But I’ve never been as dramatically thin as I’m likely to be over the next year, so who knows how it will actually turn out.

This is a ridiculous word, but I am “blessed”. I get a chance at reinvention. A chance at reincarnation before I even die. Not everyone gets that.

The surgery is booked for 4th October. So my pre-surgery diet starts on Tuesday. For two weeks I have to eat 800 calories a day. This is to shrink my liver so that it can safely be moved during the surgery so the doctor can access my stomach easily. If I don’t follow the diet, the surgeon warned me that he’d just sew me back up without changing anything and I’d get no money back.

800 calories is not a lot. I’ve bought a lot of Slimfast shakes and bars and I’ll basically be eating one small meal a day plus Slimfast stuff. And then the operation will come and I’ll be eating nothing solid for weeks.

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing a goodbye tour of food. I’ve ordered so many takeaway pizzas and takeaway Indians. I’ve gained weight with abandon. I feel like I’m getting divorced from food but I haven’t told him yet, so I’m using his credit card as much as possible in the run up to the final showdown on Tuesday.

Saying goodbye to food is something I’ve dreamed of. I hate food so profoundly for the shame and discomfort it’s made me feel all my life. One of the reasons I think I’ll never have children is I can imagine starving them because I’d be so afraid I’d inflict my fatness on them.

But a new dawn beckons. I don’t have to be afraid of food any more. It doesn’t know that, but on Tuesday, I’m serving it divorce papers. And I’m going to be free.

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Paradise regained

Like an elderly lady at the end of a long day, I’m sitting on my sofa with my feet in a basin of warm water with a capful of Dettol added in. My feet are in a bit of a state.

I’ve been on my feet more than usual, doing tourist things around Kiev (this post isn’t about Kiev, but no doubt a future one will be) and have a few little blisters on my feet as a result. My ankle pains are also worse than usual tonight after all the walking I did in the last few days and I think the warm water is good for that.

As well as the blisters, and the ankle pains, my toe nails are badly cut and have been cutting into the skin of the neighboring toes. Earlier in the week, I was at my wits’ end after multiple attempts at cutting my toe nails. Toe nails are just so hard to reach when you have a sixty-inch waist. In one of my lower moments, I tried to think of who I could ask to cut my toe nails for me and I literally couldn’t think of anyone I’d be willing to humiliate myself like that for. Luckily, I did manage to cut them eventually, but badly.

Finally, I have horrendously itchy athlete’s foot. I can barely reach to apply the ointment I need. And I can’t kill off the fungus that causes athlete’s foot because I can’t reach my feet to dry them properly after a shower so I invariably put my socks on while my feet are still wet and the fungus breeds on my dank and unattractive feet.

At the start of the week, I was resigned to this being my life. I couldn’t afford my surgery. I’d be fat for the foreseeable future and my feet would just have to tolerate the uncut jagged toenails and the rampant fungus and the blisters and the ankle pain.

My main reaction when I couldn’t get the credit for the operation wasn’t anger. It was a familiar feeling. I thought “Of course I didn’t get this. I’m doomed to be fat forever. I don’t deserve to be thin.” 25 years of failed diets has an impact on your self-esteem. Part of me really does believe that I don’t deserve to be able to reach my feet.

And then, a fairy godmother intervened. I have a loan of the money. I have booked the operation for the 4th October. It’s real.

It’s magic. I’ve regained what was stolen from me and it feels so much more precious. And not only do I get all the improvements to my health and my sleep and my feet and my body and my life expectancy. Not only do I get all that, but I also get to feel that someone out there thinks I deserve this and I feel like I matter. I matter a little bit more than I did a week ago and that’s more profound than anything. The world can be so beautiful sometimes that it hurts.

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Bubble burst

Veteran Connor-watchers will have known something was wrong. In the past 24 hours, I’ve tweeted about how much I miss Glee and Facebooked about how much I miss 2012 One Direction. Those are my safe spaces. Why would Connor be sitting at home alone being broodily reminiscent and retreating into a Glee-based funk?

The weightloss company contacted me. I didn’t clear their credit checks. They’re not going to let me get the surgery on a payment plan. I don’t know what to do.

It’s the kind of news that makes you angry at yourself. It’s not because I have big debts. All my big debts are in Ireland. It’s because I simply don’t earn enough.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been at work until after 10:00 pm twice, and after 9:00 another four times. One day last week I arrived at 7:30 am and left at 9:45 pm. I’m working myself to death and I don’t know why. Because I can’t earn enough to get a £10,000 loan, no matter how many hours I spend there.

I love my job and I love the people I work with. I really really do. People have been so nice to me and I’ve made genuine friendships. I’m really surprised at myself for loving the job. I didn’t expect to, but it’s nice to have my own department and I’m given freedom to do more or less what I like and I’ve pushed and pushed and made the department as big as I can and brought in as many students as I can and I’ve half-killed myself in the process. My life is my job these days. And after leaving the office at 10:00, it’s 11:00 by the time I get home and face into my proofreading work, taking my laptop to bed with me.

And yes, I have a nice life because I’m earning a stable salary again. I can afford a lovely flat and I have built up quite a collection of new shirts and ties and I treat myself to new books and to theatre tickets. But I can’t help feeling I’ve done everything wrong.

I put my work before everything. I worked last Saturday. I’m working two of the next three Saturdays. I’m not working next Saturday but I am at a work conference. I had a ticket to see Fun Home in its last week on the West End on Thursday and I didn’t go because I didn’t want to leave work until I’d cleared my inbox at 9:45. I didn’t go to a colleague’s leaving party last week because I worked that day from 8:00 am to 9:30 pm and I felt like throwing up from tiredness and I had to go home and mark assignments before coming into work again the next day, a Saturday.

And I do it all so I get my £1800 into my bank account every month. And yes, I’m proud of what I’ve built at work. But who the hell have I built it for? In my funk today, I decided to find out who I was working for. My school is owned by a larger company, which is owned by an investment group, which is owned by a larger investment group which in turn is owned by four German billionaire siblings. The same investment group has shares in Pret-a-Manger and 7Up and Max Factor and Calvin Klein. That’s who I’ve been working for and so I’m selling my soul not getting the lifestyle I want in return. Capitalism, kids, is a massive con job.

I feel like such an idiot.

I don’t know who I’ve been working myself like that for. And I haven’t been doing the things I came to London to do. I came to London to write and create but I’ve even been too tired for the last while to make my One Direction videos, let alone work on any more books. I came to London to have an actual sex life and a love life and yet I haven’t been with a man for months. I came to London to go to West End shows and yet I’m skipping them to answer work emails. I’ve got everything wrong.

And I was so hopeful that I was going to get the chance to re-write the script of my life. I was going to get the surgery and be thin and find a boy who wants to hold hands with me instead of a fat fetishist who wants to cum on my hairy moobs and I was going to be able to be a new Connor and end this eternal cycle of diets and failure forever and I was going to be able to see my penis before I was forty.

I don’t know what happens next. I think I need to seriously start looking for a job where I’ll earn more. The best bet might be academia. Do I dust off my PhD and see if I can get an article or two out of it and start the life of endless homework that academia involves? I don’t know.

I’ll also see how long the wait will be for the surgery on the NHS – apparently it’s two to three years. I’ll have to lose weight in the meantime. Since I decided to get the surgery six weeks ago, I’ve gained a stone and a half. I’m over 28 stone again for the first time since before the Camino and manoeuvring myself in and out of bed and in and out of the shower and in and out of my socks is harder than it’s ever been before. So I have to do something.

I have three weeks off work in October that I was going to use for the surgery. I can’t afford to go abroad on a holiday. Maybe I’ll try getting my writing started again. Maybe I’ll try getting into drag again. Maybe I’ll find a nice fat fetishist and insist on cuddles and well as whatever weird eating thing/squashing thing/wobbling thing he wants me to do.

I’ll rise again, but right now, I’m in a funk.

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The Surgeon

Since the decision to have surgery, I haven’t known what to eat. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t try to diet? But all I know how to do is how to diet and how to break diets. I don’t know what I eat when I’m not dieting, even though I know exactly what to eat when I’m cheating on a diet. And the rare periods of my life when I’ve actively decided not to diet have always been a strain.

If I try to figure out what to eat when I’m not on a diet, the act of figuring out what to eat feels too much like a diet. I bought a box of chocolate pop tarts last week telling myself I’d have them for breakfast every day. I mean, surely that wouldn’t feel diet-y. But it did. It felt pre-planned and I rebelled and didn’t eat my delicious chocolatey pop tarts for breakfast because it felt like forcing porridge on myself and instead I went to a bakery for breakfast every morning last week. I wish my relationship with food made sense. In 2007, the magical year I lost six and a half stone at WeightWatchers, I was able to count the WW points in literally everything I ate for a whole year. And dieting makes me happy. I like counting calories and planning meals. But not dieting sets of all kinds of irrationalities in my brain and I start to malfunction. I prefer cheating on a diet to not dieting, even though I know that probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I’m glad this surgery will make being on a diet into my default setting.

My appointment with the surgeon was yesterday. I woke up early, full of nervous excitement. I was going to meet the man of my dreams. The man who would make me thin. The Dumbledore to my Harry. The Michelangelo to my David. The flames to my phoenix.

I agonised over what to wear like I was going on a date. Eventually, I chose my loudest Hawaiian shirt. I wanted my surgeon to remember me.

I posted on Facebook about where I was going. I started getting messages wishing me luck and I burst into tears on the bus. Yay! Connor is as stable as ever! It was a number of things that made me cry. Although my initial reveal of my plans to have the surgery went well, and people were very supportive, I started getting negative reactions as more and more people found out and I had begun to dread a lifetime of being judged for this and just getting this support buoyed me again. Also, the fact that men were saying nice things also set me off, as a part of my brain still believes I don’t deserve to be liked by men because I’m a gross fat gay and while a woman might like me as a non-sexually-threatening comedy prop, I see myself as having no value for men and so when they’re nice to me, especially in the context of anything related to my body, I tend to fall apart emotionally. Also, I was just keyed up with excitement at meeting the man who was going to change my life. For all of these reasons, I was crying on the 118 bus on a Saturday morning, covering my face with both hands so the teenage girl across from me couldn’t see my face convulsing with sobs. It didn’t work and she totally could see.

I got to the Harley Street office with time to spare. It was swanky. I was sent up to meet the doctor.

I love him. He started by complimenting my shirt.

He’s from Northern Ireland, so we pretended to be interested in where each other is from as all Irish people in England are compelled to do when they first meet.

Then he started asking me about my history of my weight, of my weight gains and weight losses. After I’d spoken for a few minutes he stopped me and said “You have to have the surgery.”


He talked me through the different options available. The mildest is a gastric balloon, which is a no-risk operation whereby a balloon is inserted into your stomach and then inflated so you feel full quicker. People tend to only lose a stone or two using it and once the balloon is taken out, the weight usually goes straight back on. He said that he occasionally uses it for patients who are so fat that he wouldn’t be able to safely perform one of the better operations so he needs them to lose a few stone first. He says he also uses them for women who want pre-wedding weightloss surgery and aren’t particularly overweight but need to lose a little before their weddings.

After discussing the options, he agreed with my initial decision that a vertical sleeve gastrectomy would be best. He felt my belly and was relieved that it was soft fat and not the hard fat of an enlarged liver, which would make the operation harder. Apparently, I have male pattern obesity, which didn’t surprise me. This means that I hold most of my weight in my belly and that will be where I first lose weight too. He told me that women hold more weight in their hips and ass and so the first place a woman loses weight is her ass. He then did an impression of the black women he used to operate on in New York, some of whom would just walk out of his office when he told them that the first place they’d lose their weight would be their bottoms. How could they keep a man without a big booty? (I can attest to this. The first message I almost always get from black and middle eastern men on Grindr, Scruff, Growlr etc is pretty much always a request to see a picture of my ass.) And yes, a Northern Irish white man doing an impression of a New York black woman talking about her ass is questionable at best, but there is something hopelessly funny about someone attempting an accent that is completely beyond them. This guy could barely do a Derry accent and certainly not a Dublin accent, so the fact that he attempted a Harlem one was hilarious.

He spent a long time talking about the health benefits of weightloss surgery. Apparently, as a new baby doctor, he’d been sent to work on weightloss surgeries and he didn’t really believe in them. He thought they were a waste of time. But then he was converted when he saw someone being cured of diabetes literally hours after their surgery and being able to dispose of all the drugs they’d been dependent on for years. He thinks that this kind of surgery is miraculous.

The gastric sleeve that I’ll get doesn’t just reduce the size of your stomach so you can’t fit as much food or drink in. It also eliminates the part of your stomach that produces ghrelin and other hormones that promote hunger. And it works. It’s been proven to eliminate conditions like sleep apnoea (which I almost certainly have) and diabetes, to reduce cancer risk, to lower blood pressure, to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, to reduce the risk and scale of joint issues, to extend life span and to promote testosterone production in men (what if it turns me straight?) It’s been proven that people don’t just lose the weight, but they keep it off. It really is a miracle.

He would have been happy to do the operation in two weeks’ time. I asked for the first week in October. He’s also fine with that. I have to spend two weeks before the operation on a crazy 800-calorie-a-day diet to shrink my liver so it doesn’t get in the way during the operation. So now I just have to find the money.

As we were chatting about dates for the operation, he asked if I had someone to go home to. I informed him that I’m single and that I live alone. He told me that most people go home after one night, but the hospital would let me stay a second night after the operation as I had no one. He said it with love and I nearly cried again.

I’m excited. I’m going to make this happen. Be ready for Connor, the Skinny Legend.

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Connor: Mouseketeer

I work in a beautiful old Georgian building. Key word: old. Old buildings are full of secret nooks and crannies and hiding spaces for little mice.

I’m OK with mice. If I see a cockroach or a rat in a house I’m in, I want to move country (there’s a reason I left Vietnam), but if there’s a mouse, I just shudder briefly as it scurries by and then gets on with my life. Mice are OK by me. Or at least they were OK by me.

Mice usually avoid people and light. But not mice that have been driven crazy by poison. The pest exterminator had been on Friday, so on Monday, the building’s mice had supped the poison and had clearly lost their minds, and were not behaving as they’re expected to, much like me backstage at a One Direction concert.

It started early on Monday. A mouse scurried across the floor in the middle of the office where I work at about ten o’clock. But then it stopped scurrying. It had a little break and just sat in the middle of the floor, sunning itself. Then it scurried on.

It ran under a sofa. Ten minutes later, it came out again, ran under a shelf, ran back again and ran out into the corridor.

I was a little jumpy at this stage. The way a mouse scurries is deeply creepy and to have a mouse unafraid to keep on scurrying and to appear completely at ease with just hanging out in the middle of a bright floor in a noisy office was terrifying. It was like the scene in the science fiction film when they discover that the robots have been programmed to no longer obey the instructions of humans. What was the strange new world? Were the mice in charge now? Was humanity done for? Would we just have to serve the mice, like the Apes in Planet of the Apes?

The mice didn’t stop. For the next hour or so, a mouse interrupted our work every ten minutes or so. There were at least two different mice, one was quite fat, with longer legs and another was tiny, a baby mouse.

The teachers came out on their morning breaks, reporting drama. Students had screamed. Students had fled to the back yard. A teacher, who is a former sexual health nurse and is just as no nonsense and unafraid of mice as you’d imagine, chased a mouse from her classroom into the hallway closet and barricaded it in there, stuffing all the gaps with bin bags.

My shoes were in that cupboard. Just like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, I wear trainers to work and change into sensible shoes when I arrive. Oh no! Now my shoes were stuck in a mouse cemetery.

I dispatched emails to my various bosses and to the janitorial team in the main branch of the school down the road. Mice on the loose! Connor couldn’t cope! My first few messages didn’t get much of a response. Later, as different staff members visited our branch they almost all encountered a mouse.

Eventually, the janitorial team arrived. They couldn’t really do much more than we could. One of the brightest moments of my bleak mouse-ridden day was watching our stocky Polish janitor run down the hallway after a mouse, carrying a mop, while being followed by his short Colombian colleague. I have no idea what they were going to do with the mop if they did catch the mouse.

They didn’t catch the mouse.

I’m always tired on a Monday. I never sleep more than two or three hours on a Sunday night. So my nerves are quite raw on a Monday no matter what. And being interrupted by a creepy scurrying mouse every ten minutes started to send me literally crazy. A colleague of mine thought it would be funny to surprise me a regular intervals by putting her hand on my leg and pretending to be a mouse. It was not funny.

Late that afternoon I was phoning someone about their application for a course. Let’s say his name was John. He didn’t answer his phone so I left a message on his voicemail. I meant to say “Hello John. This is Connor calling about your CELTA course.” Instead I said “Hello John. This (I suddenly gasped and screeched the next two words) is Connor (I paused and my voice returned to a normal volume) calling about your CELTA course. (I paused again. Should I explain the screech?) I’m sorry. I had a little fright. Anyway, please get in touch and let me know if…”

An hour later I got an email from John. He had decided not to do a CELTA course after all.

There have been no mouse sightings for a week now.

I’ve more or less recovered.

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It’s a weird feeling now I’ve made the decision to have the surgery. It’s like my brain is at a loss for something to worry about.

I’m not saying I floated around in a cloud of bliss today. I certainly didn’t. It was a Monday. It was too hot. I didn’t get to work at the time I’d planned. Lunch was not nice at the canteen today. My office is basically a sauna in this weather. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

But I felt a new calm inside. I’m going to succeed this time. This isn’t one of those “Maybe This Time” moments. It’s a “Definitely This Time” moment. I remember a long time ago, a friend sent me a cryptic message asking “What if you knew you couldn’t fail?” I thought maybe she’d got into witchcraft or found Jesus or something because that’s not something that people usually say. It turned out later that she was talking about weightloss surgery, but in my arrogance, I dismissed that.

It is an incredible feeling though. Knowing that you’re not going to fail. For every diet I’ve been on and nearly been on, I genuinely believed I would follow it and succeed and be thin, but now, I don’t even have the niggling doubt I used to have. I’m actually going to succeed. I’m actually going to be thin. It’s real.

This is big. This means I get to draw a line under something. I actually get to move on. For 25 years I’ve been planning what kind of Connor I’d be once I lost weight. Now I can be that Connor.

It feels like someone I’ve been friends with for years has asked me to marry him and I’ve just realised that I’m in love with him too. A rest-of-my-life solution was just sitting there beside me all these years and I’ve only just seen it now.

I’m not waiting for the NHS. I can’t wait two or three years. Not now that I know this is the man I’m going to marry. I need to make him my own. I’ve already made an appointment with a private consultant. I’m going to be thin before I’m 40. Not maybe. Really.

The surgery will cost about ten thousand pounds. There’s an extra £500 for those with a BMI over 50, which is kind of mean and seems to go against the whole spirit of the thing. It’ll be a down payment of about £1000 and then payments of about £240 a month for four years, so it’s basically like buying a car. But better. It’ll be a struggle to put together the down payment, but I’ll manage.

I’ve spent an hour or two today googling my surgeon and reading the last three years of his Twitter. He has kind eyes. He’s from Northern Ireland. He likes gays and hates the DUP. He gets loads of good reviews online and lots of his former patients comment on how funny he is. (That could just be because he’s Irish. Sometimes I think I could say anything to a Londoner and they’d laugh because I said it in an Irish accent.)

My appointment with him is on August 25th. I could have the operation done by the end of September. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Brand New Connor on the way!

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