GIRL, YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY
7 years old. You’re never on time. You’re late and feeling great! You run at recess. You climb to the highest tier of the monkey bars. You can and do cartwheels. Headstands. Handstands. Or maybe you don’t—maybe you’re more of a sedentary type, opting to play house, where sticks are keys and knives and wands. Leaves are plates and food and money. Sticks and leaves can be anything you want them to be in your imagination!
Fast forward 10 years.
You’re 17 and you hate yourself and you hate everyone else and what’s going on with your face? Why do you have so many pimples? You’re the only person with this many pimples! You’re definitely the only person wearing hand-me-downs from 10 years ago, from your uncle. Why can’t you have brand name anything? Probably because you’re too fat to fit. And oh my god, you are so fat! And all of your fat is in your belly. It’s probably all that homework stressing you out, raising your cortisol levels.
Or maybe you’re not so fat. Everybody’s different. Maybe you’re skinny. Why are you so skinny? Why don’t you have boobs? Do you even menstruate?
Fast forward 10 more years
You’re 27, your body is a wonderland...sure you’ve noticed some changes. I don’t know what they are. Again, it’s your body. Maybe some laugh lines, gray hairs, whiskers on your double chin (uh, double chin?)
You still feel fat. You thought that by now you’d stop feeling fat. Ahhh...hahaha. You will NEVER stop feeling fat! No matter what your size is. There are people size 00 who feel fat.
You may feel beautiful, sexy, powerful, and proud. But those are internal states of being. What you feel, with your proprioceptors that let you know where you are in time and space and allow you to feel the flesh of your body when you aren’t so distracted with living your life that you can fall into a brief soundless meditation of the wholeness of your being...those nerves feel the fat. They feel the extra cushion around your thyroid, the jiggle on your back underneath your bra, the wobble of your belly and bobble of your hips.
For the last time, fast forward 10 years.
37. The first thing you notice is you can NOT hang. When you drink, you get sleepy way before you get drunk. And 1 measly bottomless mimosa will lead to a 3 day hangover. You find yourself wearing out faster than a Fleetwood Mac cover band.
In fact, you will be at a Fleetwood Mac cover band. Not drinking because you have to work in 2 days, and that is not enough time for a hangover to dissipate. After 90 minutes of standing and swaying, sometime during “You Make Loving Fun,” you notice that your toes have gone numb in your sensible flats. This trips your internal alarm system, and your body anxieties spiral like a windstorm. These anxieties will overtake the background of your mental landscape for the next 3 weeks minimum. You will ruminate on these numb toes to no end… is it diabetes or pre-diabetes? Reynaud’s Phenomenon? Peripheral Artery Disease? Peripheral Venous Disease? Thrombosis? Arteriosclerosis? Vasiculitis? Cellulitis? WHY WON’T MY BLOOD CIRCULATE???!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there some underlying Congestive Heart Failure going on?
And then as Tusk beats on, you notice your low back is aching. You try arching it to “engage your core,” but your core ain’t havin it. Your core is just about as engaging as your grandpa was when he was watching The Wheel. Your core is snoozing.
And then the wind chimes of Silver Springs start tinkling and your brain warp speeds you out of body and into your last break up, and you start to feel sad and mad and a bilious. You come back into your body noticing a mopey doo-doo brown tension creeping its way from your shoulders to your neck to your right ear and you think, “Am I having a migraine? Am I having a migraine at a Fleetwood Mac cover band during Silver Springs?”
And then a new song begins. The one that your friend had hoped they would play but wasn’t sure since it’s a What’s Her Face solo piece. (Stevie Nicks… Stevie Nicks is What’s Her Face. That’s another thing you’ve been noticing, your recall is slipping.)
And your friend’s face is all smiles and excitement.
“Do you hear what it is?”
You shake your head.
She starts dancing and singing, “Stand Back STAND BACK.”
It’s a moment of clarity for you. Registering your friend’s happiness...how her experience is such a sharp contrast to yours. She. She knows how to have fun! And she’s having fun. And you. You are not having fun. (Possibly, you don’t know how.)
Realizing this you scream, “I HAVE TO GO!”
And you do.
Because this is the point where you realize, you can.
YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY
And that’s part of what growing up is about. Making choices and pre-evaluating the consequences of those choices. Doing and not doing whatever it is you feel like doing and not being beholden to anybody else. Yeah, you can be fat, you can be skinny, or whatever it is you don’t like... or do like but nobody else seems to. There are myriad ways in which you can and will feel bad about yourself for not fitting in no matter what your age. But at some point, there is a threshold that you find it is unacceptable to put societal conventions and expectations above your own desires, or bodily pain.
Someone is giving you a weird look because you’re all bundled up on an unseasonably warm day? That’s not your problem. That’s their problem.
Your problem is that it’s 60 degrees and your feet are cold and numb.
(And you still don’t know why)