Person A enters with an over-stuffed burrito.
Person A: (licking fingers) I shouldn’t be eating this. God, it’s so good…
Person B: I hate you. How do you stay so tiny and eat like that?
Person A: I work out, but I’ve always been skinny. BEAN POLE! That’s me!
Person B: I work out, too. I can’t eat like that. I want to be bad, I want a burrito. I’m going to hate myself in the morning. You’re so tiny! I’m such a cow.
Person A: (proudly) I weigh 120.
Person B: Don’t talk to me. (to person C) Tell Person A I hate them and am not talking to them any more.
Person C: Person B hates you and isn’t talking to you any more.
Person D: (in tears) Guys, shut up, ok? You’re making me feel like such a fat cow.
Me (entering): Why does it stink like Qdoba back here?
Person B: (to Me) You’re tiny. I hate you.
This conversation happened.
Obviously People A-D are not the Biff and Sully types. This is not conversation men have often. I leave room for the possibility, however; there is much about the male of the species that is dark and mysterious to me (for example, the male fascination with his own capacity to emit gastrointestinal gasses from various portholes.)
The “I’m so fat, you’re so thin and I hate you” conversation is the silly female stuff that we bond over. It’s our version of “Did you see the game last night?” We’ll eat “bad” forbidden foods and moan and bitch about it. We castigate ourselves. We eat privately and shamefully.
To my sisters: Just STOP. Enjoy your food. Buy some damned Spanx already if you’re worried you won’t look good in this when hosting your kid’s birthday party. And then eat the cake.
Our bodies are our sacred temples, or, in my case, a sacred drive-through. Our bodies reflect our insides. Health, well-being, mood, and history all expressed in skin and posture and tone and fitness. Unlike, say frogs, we cannot demonstrate health and well-being with one good adjective. A slimy frog is a healthy and probably happy frog. Not so easy for us.
Our eyes shouldn’t be glassy, our hair should. Our teeth should shine. Our noses shouldn’t. All-over tan seems healthy, sun spots/freckles seem aging. Shadows under eyes? Bad. Shadows under cheeks? Sculpted beauty. Curves and bumps on chest and tush? Awesome. On the back of thighs? Cottage cheesy unjustice, and not nearly as tasty.
Beauty is less about being in the eye of the beholder as it is having the right things in the right places. A few millimeters in the wrong direction and we can go from beauty to beast faster than you can take my “After” picture.
My own attributes are relocating. What was once tight attractiveness with everything snugly in place and nicely hued is now beginning to shift. My sacred drive-through was once Pangea and is now and will continue to create separate continents. New mounds and masses arise from the tectonic activity, and it’s getting harder to move Planet Jackie without some sort of galactic groan coming from deep within my … I’m not going to continue that metaphor because “black hole” and “milky way” are the only things I can think of to complete that sentence and neither one really paints the picture I want here.
Drifting corporal continents are all well and good, and it’s wonderful to embrace my falling attributes, except when I am seventeen days away from high school reunion. All bets are off, my friends. My fault lines are now under siege. I’ve become my own bad end-of-the-world flick, minus Will Smith or John Cusick or Ben Affleck. It would indeed need to be an apocalyptic event to get them involved in my life, but a girl can dream.
I’m not certain why I want to look my best for people I haven’t seen in twenty years, most of whom, I am certain, don’t remember much about me. What they do remember, I fear, may not be completely positive. The people who I am looking forward to seeing couldn’t care less about what I look like.
But with big milestone events, we check everyone out, from hairline to cankles. We compare. We hope we look better than at least one person. We hope to hear the magic, “You haven’t changed a bit.” (If I hear that, I’m going to worry that my hair is bushy, my teeth are still gapped, and I have some angry-looking zits right between my eyebrows that are looking for a fight.)
Women look at others who they think are attractive and say, “I hate you.” To their faces. Sort of joking. Jealousy, it seems, is the highest form of flattery. Disdain for what we appreciate is almost as good as a Hallmark card.To You on Your Weight Loss: Congratulations! Your body you did renew! You eschewed chocolate and Irish Stew! You have lots of will power and strength of character, too. You look great. I f***ing hate you.
I’ve been trying to get my body back into shape. Stress added ten pounds over the last ten years. Babies added fifty on top of that, which came off within a few weeks of birth (DNA! DNA!) Things seemed to have rearranged myself on my body. I want to clean house, so to speak. I’ve been dieting and working out since the beginning of March. Again, not sure why. My guess is that I will go to reunion really sleek and hungry, eat my way through twenty years of memories, then whatever weight I’ve lost will come back instantly. My body loves these extra ten pounds, but not enough to let them be free to find other people.
I love food. I love cooking. I’ve been eating a lot of cereal for lunch. I miss leftovers.
I would love to say I do it for health reasons, but I’m not. It’s a vainglorious pursuit, this self-denial of all but a few bites of the treats I bake for meditation. Usually a few bites suffice.
I’m one of those people who folks make unwelcome comments to. I am also one of those people who ends confusing sentences with prepositions. Maybe the world doesn’t think I have a mirror or a doctor or an ego that I try very hard to smush down and distract with cookies.
Here is a sampling of things people, strangers and acquaintances alike, have actually said about my appearance. To my face. My apparently harsh, night-walking, blood-gorged, plague-spreading undead face.
- You’re tiny.
- You’re huge.
- Your face is severe.
- Congratulations, you only have one hemorrhoid.
- My son says you look like a vampire. (This was said to me by a parent of a high school freshman at a parent-teacher conference. I did not laugh. She tried to pass it off as a compliment. I moved on to talking about her kid’s class performance. It was a squirmy ten minutes. I can only imagine her having to tell her kid this after she went home. He slumped into class the next day and didn’t make eye contact. I was super nice to him. Always confuse ‘em. That was the key to my teaching success.)
- Wow! Look at that scoliosis!
- You’re round.
- Your arms are creepy and shouldn’t look like that.
- Don’t you feel how warm your elbow is?
- Nice feet.
- Oh my God! What is wrong with your feet?
- Your hair looks green.
- What did you do to your hair?
- You have a 19th century body. Too bad we’re in the 21st century.
- You need to wear lipstick, otherwise you look sick.
- Are those birthmarks or dog bites?
- Don’t shave.
- You’ve gained too much weight.
- You were larger the last time I saw you.
- You have great urine!
- We’re going to have to remove that.
- You’re near-sighted.
- You probably have whooping-cough.
- That looks terrible on you.
- You’re in the way.
- You’re outta sight!
- You’re uncoordinated.
- You can’t dance.
- You are so graceful!
- You move like a dancer.
- I love your nose.
- Your nose is funny looking.
- Small mouth.
- You don’t open your mouth much when you talk.
- You should be dead.
- No head trauma.
- No broken bones.
- Get a tattoo.
- Get your belly button pierced.
- Get a tan.
- Get some sun.
- Get some air.
- Get some exercise.
- Get some.
- You’re probably infertile, or at least going to have a very hard time getting pregnant.
- You’re carrying twins.
- You don’t look like you’re carrying twins.
- How many do you have in there?
- Can’t believe there were twins in there.
- I hate you.
So after all that, what new things could anyone at reunion (or beyond) possibly add? Too beady, too bumpy, to leafy, too lumpy . . . too holey, too patchy, too feathery, too scratchy? That, I might enjoy.
*Jackie grumbles a bit and goes to find the cookies she “hid” in the freezer.*