Indignantly, I pushed in the bathroom door as my father sat on the toilet.

“There’s no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, either?”

“That’s right,” he said. “Now give me some privacy.”

Moments before, Dad had told me there was no Santa Claus, wanting to spare me embarrassment for believing in an imaginary thing. But he left something out of his talk, and now I am embarrassed.

What my father failed to mention is that not all such figures of folklore are imaginary. There really is a fairy who visits us older people in the middle of the night.

The PotBelly Fairy is real. It climbs through windows, doors, or chimneys throughout the world, and changes the image we have of ourselves. It makes its way into our beds regardless of our differences. Tummy fat and love handles don’t have a race, sexual orientation or gender. You just wake up one day and there they are.

“Where did this potbelly come from?” I asked Ray in astonishment as I looked more closely at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. “It wasn’t there yesterday. Right?”

My husband maintained a safe silence.

Immediately, I did some research. It seems that as most of us get older, we lose muscle strength in our back and in our abdomen, and we’re often more sedentary. It’s easier to collect fat, and harder to get rid of it.

My father was fat, and I have grown up in fear of being the same, not that there’s anything wrong with being fat, I just don’t like the look on me.

“How do I get rid of this?” I asked Ray. He diplomatically didn’t say that I had to stop having a dark chocolate, gelato sundae every night, stop eating two pieces of chocolate after dinner, and quit thinking of a dark chocolate-covered malt ball as lunch.

Besides the loss of muscles and decreased physical activity, there is also an attitude adjustment. It’s a surrender to the disarming voice of the PotBelly Fairy who constantly whispers in my ear, “Oh, please. You’re 75 years old. You’ve followed the rules of eating well and exercising for years. Eat the damn sundae. You deserve it. And if you get really fat, you can always call yourself a Bear.”

I know and like Bears. But, I don’t want to be a Bear. I want to be able to get into my 32-inch waist pants. Why? I just feel more comfortable when I’m thin, and I don’t want to be my father.

No matter what anyone tells you about Santa Clause, who obviously has been visited quite often by the PotBelly Fairy, there is a real, not folklore, thing that starts hanging around us after age 60. It waves its magic wand to create belly fat, so don’t blame yourself. We should exercise to our level of comfort, eat well-balanced food, and sweets, and expect that we’ll probably start looking like our parents.

Brian McNaught has been an author and educator on LGBTQ issues since 1974. Former Congressman Barney Frank said of Brian, “No one has done a better job of chronicling what it’s like to grow up gay."