After cutting all of my hair off, I looked in the mirror and my chubby arms no longer looked quite as chubby. They looked more…strong. Or maybe they looked rounded without being gross.
My friend told me a story about getting a compliment on a part of her body that she has always felt self-conscious about, and then looking in the mirror and thinking that that part of her looked completely different. It didn’t make any sense. Could she have lost ten pounds en route to the mirror? Only if you involve aliens.
And as much as I like the Katy Perry song (I can’t help it. It’s not my fault. It’s the beat.), I can’t involve aliens. I mean, if there were aliens, they would be showing up in a lot more obvious ways. It’s not like they’d have this super secret relationship with the government, and then occasionally abduct some dude in a cornfield, just for kicks. Talking about aliens that way insults their astounding mastery of interstellar technology. They’ve got nothing to hide from this puny little planet. And they probably don’t look even remotely human– think about how we don’t look anything like slugs and seahorses and stuff, and our DNA is a lot more similar to those things than it would be to aliens.
OK, I’m done. I’m sorry. I was made to watch an X Files movie recently, and I’m a little indignant.
This is what I’m really writing about:
It’s not at all clear that we use the right words for ourselves. That we imagine the right images when we think of ourselves.
I feel bigger than everyone around me. I’m not, but I feel it so clearly that occasionally, after I’ve insisted that my wrists are twice as thick as a friends, she’s held her wrist alongside mine and shown me. “Look.” And sure enough, hers are bigger. But how? Her wrists look so delicate and lovely. Mine seem unexpressive and thick.
Sometimes my legs are stunted and unfortunate. Sometimes they are shapely and adorable. They can change without any warning. But they’re not really changing at all.
I am changing. My perception of myself changes all the time.
The day after I cut all my hair off, I stopped by the drycleaners and Jackie, the woman who runs the place, said, “Swan.”
I said, “Excuse me?”
She said, “You look like swan.”
I think I blushed. It was the coolest compliment ever.
Suddenly, I felt a little like a swan, with a long, graceful neck. I do not have a long, graceful neck. But Jackie saw something of the swan about me, and then I saw it about myself.
I catch myself standing up straighter automatically. I feel surprisingly fluid and graceful.
Is there ever anything so awful about our bodies that it can’t be rephrased? The huge majority of the time, we hate things that aren’t even bad. Things that other people don’t mind about us. Or even things that other people find beautiful about us.
My friends are always surprising me with the things they can’t stand about their bodies.
“It’s my chin. It’s horrible.”
Or the usual: “My stomach,” when I would never have thought there was anything unattractive about her stomach.
“It’s my arms,” I say, in front of several friends.
“What?!” they yell simultaneously.
I look at them, confused. I mean, of course it’s my arms. Just look at them.
But maybe the problem is that I’ve spent way too much time doing just that. Or way too much time looking at them in exactly the wrong way.
If an alien showed up in my apartment now (which it could probably do, if it had the technology to get to earth first), I doubt it would notice my arms at all. It’d be more concerned with all the weird holes and bulges on the part of me that makes sounds that resemble some primitive form of communication. It would be distracted by my strange, unbalanced body with it’s little legs on top and clumsy long legs on the bottom, set on flat parts that don’t spread out far enough to prevent me from toppling if I’m poked a little. It would wonder why my vital organs are all so exposed, with only a paper-thin stretch of skin and a few twiggy bones hiding an awful lot of them.
It would probably find me horrifyingly ugly. Disgusting, actually. But then, I’d look exactly like all of the other disturbingly gross five-pronged figures with their sound bulbs on the stalk in the flat plane between the secondary legs on the top.
It really depends on your perspective.
* * *
Unroast: Today I love my mouth.
New Skipping School post, about things homeschoolers don’t know how to do.
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