Songs for a patient on the eve of a sleeve gastrectomy

*Not a playlist you’ll find on Spotify. Yet.

My Love is Your Love (Whitney Houston) – YouTube link

In the summer of 1999, as I was finishing secondary school, Whitney Houston had a moderate-sized hit with this weird little song, the first line of which is “If tomorrow is Judgement Day (Sing Mommy!)” On the day before my leaving cert results, nothing was going through my mind except that line, over and over again, and ever since then, on the day before momentous occasions, I’ve found myself singing “If tomorrow is Judgement Day (Sing Mommy!)”. And so, here I am today, the day before the surgery, singing Whitney, googling the exact risks, the chances of death, asking whether I need to leave exact instructions with anyone just in case I do die on the operating table. (I don’t have any property to dispose of in a will, but I would like you to take a printout of this blog and my Facebook timeline to a big-time movie producer and see if my life could the source material for an acclaimed movie.) (Sing Mommy!)

Maybe This Time (Liza Minelli)YouTube link

This one is an obvious one. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to start diet after diet after diet. Every Monday morning of my life since I was about 11 years old, I would swear to myself that this time it was for real. I would sign contracts with myself. I would throw out all the food in the house. I would burn food. I would make public declarations on my blog and my Facebook and on Tumblr, I would make appointments with doctors, I would start food diaries, I would cry, I would swear that this would be the time. This time it would stick. “Maybe this time, for the first time, I’ll win.” I always meant it. Always. But each time, I believed myself a little less. And now, here I stand on the precipice of it actually working. This time really is different.

Maybe (Aileen Quinn)YouTube link

This is a song from the movie musical Annie. I didn’t mean to make this playlist quite so gay. Sorrynotsorry. This is the song where little orphan Annie fantasises about what her parents are like. I like to play it and fantasise about alternative versions of me. In this case a thin Connor. I really don’t know what a thin Connor would be like. I only ever got some of the way there. I’m given to making ridiculous statements about it. In the last few weeks, I’ve started lots of sentences with “When I’m skinny I’m going to…” Today, I found myself saying “When I’m skinny, I’m going to wear nothing but baby oil and short shorts.” I really don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I do know I’ve been dreaming about it for years.

Shout Out to My Ex (Little Mix)YouTube link

This is a girl power anthem that I listened to on repeat when I first moved to London. This song emblematised the new Connor. I wasn’t going to be scared of life any more. I was leaving the bubble I’d built for myself in Ireland. I’d walked out of a permanent, pensioned, salaried job with no notice and taken a plane to London to make my name. After literally averaging one kiss every seven years, I found myself having sex with three men in one week. After living alone in a three-bedroom house in Longford two hundred miles from my nearest friends and hiding from the world, here I was living in hostels, sharing a bedroom with 24 people. I even published my little book. London Connor was brave in a way Ireland Connor wasn’t. And now, I’ve settled here and I have a permanent, pensioned, salaried job again, and I live alone again, and I’ve stopped writing. But I’m still brave. And what I’m doing tomorrow is brave.

Make Your Own Kind of Music (Mama Cass)YouTube link

I was briefly a member of a support group for gay and lesbian teenagers around 1997/98. We met in the Other Place, the gay and lesbian resource centre that used to be on South Main Street before the internet made that kind of thing somewhat redundant. It was on Wednesday afternoons (most schools in Cork city had half days on Wednesdays at that time – I have no idea why) and I still remember standing on the opposite side of the road for up to half an hour working up the courage to walk in the door, which I would always do as quickly as I possibly could. The group frustrated me because they didn’t find a boyfriend for me and I didn’t feel like a ‘proper gay’ for years afterwards. Anyway, the most memorable meeting for me was the afternoon I was the only one who turned up and the middle-aged lesbian in charge put on a video of the film ‘Beautiful Thing’, a lovely little coming out film that still makes me cry even to think about it. In one scene, the two teenage boys run around a forest and kiss each other while ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ plays. That scene ruined me forever. The idea that being gay wasn’t a burden and wasn’t just about sin and AIDS, but about kissing a hot boy in the woods was a revelation to 16-year-old Connor. I’ve still never done anything with a boy in a forest. But I think I have made my own kind of music. And that’s what this surgery is. I have had so much support from people, but some people have not welcomed my decision to have surgery, with reactions ranging from  “Don’t” to “I’m sorry you feel like you have to do this” to “I thought you were well able to get around.” I know I’m probably failing the fat community and the weightloss community simultaneously by taking this decision, but goddammit, I’m making my own kind of music and I’m proud of it.

I’ll make a man out of you (Donny Osmond)– YouTube link

This song is from the Disney movie Mulan, which I’ve never seen. I was introduced to it on a weightloss channel on YouTube that I used to watch obsessively. It’s a great motivational track. One of my recurring thoughts about extreme weightloss is the hormonal changes. I really have no idea how significant these are, but I do know that obesity puts both men and women at risk of breast cancer because of the excess oestrogen stored in fat. I also know that weightloss tends to lead to a rise in testosterone levels. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from many of the ‘chubby chasers’ that I’ve dated/had sexy time with that all fat guys are bottoms (prefer receptive sex). The chubby chasers don’t like this, as it doesn’t fit with their sexual fantasy of a fierce gorilla-like fat man pinning them down. I also heard from one chaser whose ex had weightloss surgery that it resulted in a complete change in his sexual appetite. Is that going to happen to me? Am I going to be some kind of sex-mad butch dom top? Do I want to be?

Ease on Down the Road (Michael Jackson and Diana Ross)YouTube link

This song, from The Wiz – the all-black version of the Wizard of Oz, was the song I listened to every morning of my Camino, as I set off down the road to Santiago. Walking 708 km when I was 28 stone wasn’t easy and it never got easy. It got easier, but it was work. The same applies to this. This operation isn’t an easy way out. This operation is putting myself on a life-long diet. After the surgery, I’ll have a tiny stomach. I can expect to only be able to have a meal that’s about three spoonfuls before getting full. It will gradually get bigger, but apparently it will always be small and it will be unco-operative if I try to eat a lot or eat quickly. This is not a small or an easy thing I’m doing. This is not the easy way out. This will be work.

Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)YouTube link

What’s the biggest thing missing from my life right now? I have friends, I like my job, I have the option of sex with anonymous internet men, I have a lovely flat. I would say that the biggest thing missing right now is the feeling of safety. I feel insecure. When was the last time I really felt safe? It was when I was living in Trinity Hall, sharing my daily life with 1000 teenagers, and it was an artificial life that couldn’t last, but I want to build a relationship that will make me feel safe and I really do think that will be easier to find if I’m not walled behind hundreds of pounds of protective, self-defensive fat. In my first year in Hall, 2011-2012, the year I shared my flat with those lovely Boys, the one ubiquitous, unavoidable song was Call Me Maybe. When things were going well in my PhD or when things were going badly in PhD I used to go to my secret place on the staircases of the Arts Block and play Call Me Maybe and jump up and down joyously, like I was a character written by Shonda Rhimes. It was excellent preparation for my Viva exam and it’ll be excellent preparation for this operation too.

I Dreamed a Dream (Audition version) (Susan Boyle)YouTube link

This is my favourite place on all the internet. Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s manufactured reality TV poo, and I know that Piers Morgan, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden are all varying degrees of deplorable, and I know that Susan’s massive success mightn’t actually have done her any good, but Oh My God, this video. It’s perfect. The seemingly ugly, overweight woman who no one expects anything but comedy from. The girl in the audience who rolls her eyes. And then she sings and it’s beautiful. And a whole auditorium full of people go wild for her and believe in her. And the idea that fat and ugly me could someday produce something beautiful and be actually seen just breaks me apart.

Let Me Be Your Star (Megan Hilty and Katherine McPhee)YouTube link

This is the song that I sing when I’m excited, and is the song I’ve actually been singing non-stop for the last week. It comes from the cancelled, but amazing, but awful, but fabulous, NBC Broadway-based drama Smash. It’s a song of longing, of wanting, of confidence, of dreams, about a young Marilyn Monroe, sung by two young actresses aspiring to be Marilyn Monroe and it’s one of the best ever written. One day, when I’m skinny and I have money and a camera crew, I want to do a shot-for-shot exact reenactment of the video of this song, where I play both roles. Anyway, hopefully this is the right thing to do, hopefully my life will get better. Let me be your star!



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