Friday, November 12, 2010

Sumo Wrestling

My middle name is Sumo.  Seriously.  When I was born my parents thought I looked EXACTLY like a sumo wrestler.  Apparently, I was a very short, very round, dumpling-with-dark-hair kind of newborn.  (They also ludicrously thought the name would help me get into a good college.  Here's what they fantasized: someone in admissions at Harvard would see my name, think I was part-Asian, and bam!  I'd be a shoo-in.  Ummm...OF COURSE that didn't happen!  But they're funny, right?)

Growing up with that middle name, I couldn't decide if I was proud of it or embarassed by it.  On the one hand, I liked it because it made me stand out among my peers, while on the other hand I was embarassed by it BECAUSE it made me stand out among my peers.

Around the age of seventeen I sort of stopped eating.  Like, food.  I'm not sure if it was a reaction to the name "Sumo," which naturally implies someone fat, but, for whatever the reason, I really focused, controlled, and totally obsessed about every single thing that went into my mouth.  This obsession took up a good portion of my latter teen years, my twenties, and even into my thirties.  My weight would fluctuate -- sometimes I'd be bone-thin and sometimes I'd be wafer-thin and then sometimes I'd just be thin.

I'm not going to go in to the whole societal pressure thing on women, because we all know about it and we have all heard it before, and the bottom line is, it's true.  About 90% of all the girls and women I know currently have or have had some issue with body image and food.  But here's another truth: no woman or girl, or anyone for that matter, can conquer it until they they're good and ready to -- pressure from parents, peers, or professionals does zero good.

So a few things happened when I turned thirty-five.  First, I had my last baby (thank GOD! enough was enough!), but shortly thereafter I got very sick from a kidney infection that turned septic, meaning the infection went into my bloodstream.  Laying in the ICU, I knew I HAD to find change in my life.  I was cold, I was alone, and anyone who came to visit me had to put on this horrendous-looking latex suit and gloves.  And all this isolation was what I had basically done to myself by not taking care of ME.  Not only had I deprived myself of food, but I had emotionally deprived myself as well.  And now, to make matters worse, any visiting family and friends were forced to put on rubber suits that distinctly resembled monstrous blue condoms.

In the past three years since that really dreary hospital experience, I began to love myself again.  That sounds so fucking corny, but it's true.  I started getting stronger through exercise, yoga, etc., and I started simply, well, eating.  I just didn't have the energy or the patience to try to starve myself any more.  My mind and body were seeking other things.

As I grew stronger physically I also grew stronger emotionally.  I became more confident, and I stopped trying to please everyone else so much.  I started concentrating on real relationships with real people that made me feel good about myself.  And now, more than anything else, I feel grateful, not only because I conquered what I thought would be a demon that lived inside me forever, but also because I have a daughter, Bella, and the last thing I would ever want to do is pass down any of that God-awful craziness to her.

So I guess I feel lucky and grateful that my parents bestowed me with the name Sumo.  Yes, they were kind of freaks to do it in the first place, but maybe something in them knew a name like that could only make me stronger and funnier and more unusual in the long run. 

And in the meantime, I've got leftover Halloween candy to attend to.


  1. Thanks for sharing your powerful story, Sarah!

  2. Sarah, your stories are amazing. Keep them coming! I am looking forward to every one. Your honestly is completely refreshing.

  3. Is it alright that i kept my blue rubber suit from when i visited you? I just like to keep things "fresh" around here...

  4. You are an amazing woman Sarah Sumo. I am so proud of you!