Most of the time, I tend to keep my musings in the shallower end of my thought pool. It’s not as murky and dangerous to my psyche if I paddle about in the part that’s clear and well defined; the part where I can still see my feet and admire my rockin’ pedicure, if you will.
Recently, though, I’ve had some reason to explore the deeper end of my pool. Occurrences like the fairly rapid loss of body weight and the accompanying ever-changing self-image are probably what propelled me there. You see, I feel small, and have confirmation of this fact by a pair of size 8 jeans from the Gap that are currently caressing my butt. A single digit size, my Holy Grail, has been achieved. Of course, this smallness was not confirmed by my old size 8 wardrobe, as my figure is slightly different now after the birth of one Miss Peanut and the gain and loss of 125 pounds. I mean, the old size 8 jeans buttoned (after much coaxing) and zipped, but the mushroom of deflated skin that rose, dough like, above the waistband was blousier than I’ve ever worn any top. But I digress. As soon as I acknowledged being small, it was as if a bell started ringing in my head. A really loud and obnoxious bell that wouldn’t give me any peace. This smallness, to me, is not merely disconcerting because I have never (ok, well, for a couple of months once) been “small,” but also because it throws a wrench in how I feel others perceive me. Why does this matter? Haven’t I always been taught that it’s what’s inside that counts? Isn’t that what I’ve always parroted when confronting bullies in my classes? Isn’t “appreciating the inner beauty” the overt message sent by the media? Yes, but you know...
may be what I was taught, but it hasn’t been what I’ve observed or witnessed. I think part off the confusion I’ve been feeling stems from this contradiction and how I’m trying to overcome it. See, people do
treat me better now. Perfect strangers flirt and chat, like I’ve suddenly become visible. Even as I say that, there’s discord in my mind, as I’ve always maintained that I never felt invisible as a fat woman, as so many other fat women have claimed. But now, suddenly, it is clear to me that I was always the one to open the conversations, to initiate the casual flirting. You know, it feels different to have people just talk to me out of the blue. To have others take this initiative shows me just how invisible (and oblivious
) I really was. Dealing with others’ perceptions of me is baffling enough when I’m not yet sure of my own self. Add yet another bell, in a different key, to the growing cacophony in my head. I’m treading water here, working up the courage to move deeper, still holding on to the shallow end of the pool.
The shallow end tends to get me in trouble. I know I dwell there too long, and it gives people an incomplete picture of who I am. Dangerous waters, when even I am not sure of this. A couple of months ago, chatting to a dear friend, I moaned about my blistering Mommy schedule of swimming lessons, homework, and being the Troop Leader for my daughter’s Daisy Girl Scout troop. I was quite taken aback – but I probably didn’t let on how much – when my friend raised an eyebrow and said (jokingly? I’m not sure.) “I don’t know if I’d want you to be my kid’s Girl Scout leader.” Well, not like it’s ever going to be an issue, as she lives four states away and her son’s not likely to join the girl scouts... She joked (once again, not sure?) about my troop being like Shelley Long’s troop in the 1980s comedy romp “Troop Beverly Hills.” I laughed it off and said, “Jeez, I’m not that shallow!” Inside, though, I was still smarting from that comment. How would she know, though, that I really wasn’t so shallow? Had I ever shown her different? In the 12 years of our friendship, had I always invited her to play in the safe section of my pool? How had I influenced her perception of me as a shallow ditzy bimbo? My fault, I guess for not showing my depth. This tiny experience added another – still discordant – bell to the growing racket in my head.
I wrote a while ago about losing my self, though not so explicitly. It struck a chord in me that has remained, its echo vibrating in my head for months now. When I wrote about buying pajamas for “who I want to be,” I sensed, but didn’t readily acknowledge a growing abnegation of self, as I’ve been having a devil of a time seeing myself. I mean, my reflection is there, but I still see a rounded woman, chubby around the edges, posing in an impostor's wardrobe. The urge to compare myself to others in order to define that picture is overwhelming at times. I want to rush up to other women and ask – Hey! What size are those jeans, and would they fit me? Do I look as small as you? The need for an ideal is still with me: I need a figure to compare myself to, and I really haven’t found one. Of course, intellectually, I find this whole “ideal” thing repugnant. I can spout the whole feminist body-acceptance mantra with the best of ‘em, but I am having real trouble living it. One of the scholarly articles I read recently (i.e., not found in Cosmo) says that the “ideal” simply doesn’t exist, and that those whom we’ve idealized are little more than we – fallible imperfect humans – but who have yet to be caught being human. This idea is closest to my secret guilty truth – that there is no ideal, never will be, never should be. Wasn’t Martha Stewart proof of that? Still, this contradiction has another bell ringing.
My head is ringing with assonant jangling now, to the point that it’s hard to think. Swimming back to the shallow end seems so tempting – it’s clear and easy, there are no hidden surprises, and I can move merrily along, denying any problems that might come along. I have the sneaking suspicion that if I go there, though, the jangling might lessen, but I’ll never completely go away. I’m still not sure, but it will probably take diving into the deepest part of the pool and struggling to reach the bottom to rid myself of this internal concerto.
So, I’m going to stay here for a while, in the deep end, and sift through the bits of detritus that I find. I need to figure myself out. I knew that being smaller would change others’ perceptions of me. I never realized it would so dramatically alter my own self-image. I hadn’t realized that I was projecting such a shallow image either, or that I was actively searching for a role mode, an ideal. I’m taking a page out of Aussie history and going walkabout. I hope I meet me.
Labels: navel lint, Weight loss surgery