Sunday, November 22, 2009

Collarbones and Veins. Weight and Marriage. It’s All About Perception.

Grandbaby Claire was here last week for an overnight. Just before bed, we snuggled on the couch, ate a dish of ice cream, and talked about our day.

“Jake is happy, Mum,” she said, referring to our Golden Retriever panting next to her, hoping to lick the ice cream bowl. She calls me “mum,” I suspect, because that’s what my daughters call me. Every day she’s more aware of the world and people around her.

Wrapped in her blanket with her head resting against my arm, Claire rubbed her fingers along the veins in my hands. Then she climbed on my lap and rolled her fingers over my collarbones. She was mesmerized by these protrusions. I didn’t stop her, even though I was embarrassed. After all, I did the same thing to my mother and grandmother, and they didn’t stop me.

When I lived in younger skin, and later an obese body, my veins and collarbones were hidden. I didn’t realize I had them or pay attention that they were there. Now that I’m older and have lost a few pounds, my veins protrude like a blue river under my pale skin and my collarbones are a tempting teething ring for grandbaby Luca.

My grandkids aren’t the only ones who notice. Several people have written to me over the last few years (a few more recently) and told me I’m too thin, otherwise my bones wouldn’t stick out like they do. Reading this, I feel exposed, and I almost (almost) feel like I should apologize for getting older or losing weight (that’s Old Me thinking, I know, but it’s still so strong). My genetics are what they are and I can’t change the way my body has evolved. So like I’ve done with excess skin and wrinkles, I can either learn to accept what is or appease the perceptions of other people and gain weight/apologize/live in aversion.

I choose to accept.

Public perception’s a bitch, and I’m as guilty as the next person of jumping to conclusions. For instance, I watched an interview with James Cameron tonight on “60 Minutes.” Morley Safer mentioned Cameron had been married five times. Five times? What a flake, right? Only losers get married that many times!

But wait. I’ve been married four times. Four. Times. One less than Cameron’s five. How does that make me, in the public eye, any different? Most people when they hear I’ve been married four times conclude I have commitment issues. While that is (was) part of the story, it’s by no means the entire truth. Knowing that about myself, I should also know there’s more truth behind Cameron’s five marriages, too. And yet I make snap conclusions.

Then there’s morbid obesity. When I was 300 pounds, how many people probably thought I was that way simply because I ate too much? Again, that’s part of the story, but hardly the entire truth. Yet when I see morbidly obese people, my first thought is they eat too much, too. Geez oh man. I don’t want that conclusion dumped on my plate and yet I dish it out to others! How perverted is that?

To fill people in on our entire truths 24/7 would be exhausting if not impossible. People are going to think what they will. But my terse conclusions of others is needs to change based mostly on my finally confessed fear of being misunderstood.

I’m a bony, middle-aged woman who formerly weighed 300 pounds and has been married four times. If that’s all you knew about me, what would you conclude?

I know what I’d think, and it’s narrow-minded and wrong. But I know that this jump-to-conclusions mindset is something I can change, unlike my collarbones and veins, fat history and four marriages. There’s always more to our stories and the entire truth is probably way more interesting than the story based on our initial conclusions.

Here’s to no more false perceptions! *clinkingglasses*

13 comments:

Ali said...

First of all, I think it is totally cute that Claire calls you Mum! And second of all, those first perceptions we have of others is so deceiving. I work so hard--oh so hard and sometimes fail--at trying not to let initial impressions stick with me. I would not be happy if others kept their first impression of me, yet here I go and do that to other people; I am quick to judge a book by a cover, and I know how absolutely wrong that is. I know I do it out of insecurity because I am afraid the other person will judge me poorly so I feel like I need to head him or her off. Which is so wrong!

I am still not as thin as I would like to be, but I am no longer obese as I once was. But I still worry and fear that everyone is judging me and thinking I am too heavy. And really other people have told me that is not the case. But I still perceive it to be so. I am constantly reminding myself that I am more than my appearance though I can still be very vain. However, I am not friends with someone because he is or she is pretty. I am friends with someone because of who he or she is on the inside. And ultimately that is the most important thing.

Vickie said...

My upper chest has changed dramatically too.

And I don't look at myself and think "my bones are sticking out" -

I look at myself and think "dancer's neck (and shoulders and upper chest)".

The world is not used to looking at TONE.

The general population is used to looking at a layer of fat covering everyone.

good posting

Vickie said...

ditto on the 'mum' that is seriously cute. I bet Luca will do it too.

Anna Down Under said...

I wonder if part of the reason I sabotage my weight loss efforts has to do with fear of looking older. I look at the before and after pictures of someone who's lost a lot of weight and tell myself she looked better before. Not because she was bigger -- but the face looked younger and prettier with some fat to fill it out. A thinner face on someone my age can make you look gaunt and ... well ... older!

Then again ... maybe it's just an excuse. It's not like I'm in any danger of looking gaunt any time soon. LOL

Lori said...

We live in an airbrushed world, so I think it can be very difficult to accept ourselves and what people really look like. It takes a very young child who has no preconceived notions of what someone *should* look like to appreciate all the wonderful parts of the human body. In all their shapes, sizes, and stages of age.

Lyn said...

Excellent, Lynn. Thanks for writing this.

Sondra said...

You know the sad thing is because American's have become habitually obese and morbidly obese that people who are with in their BMI are considered "too thin" because it is not the norm.

I know how wonderful you look, so don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Huggs Diva!!!

Shelley said...

I, too, love the "Mum" - so sweet!

My co-worker, who I don't see very often as we share the job, told me last week that I needed to watch were I lose weight, as my face is getting too thin and I will start looking old and haggard. I was thinking "if you think I have any control over where the weight comes off, believe me, it would be coming off my stomach and arms!" - but I didn't say anything, of course. So I may end up looking a little older than I would have when my fat was smoothing out my wrinkles, but OH WELL, I'd rather be thin and healthy.

Perception...it's a good thing!

Amelia said...

You're right: you can't please everybody, and a life spent trying to isn't a life worth living. Don't people ever stop trying to tell us what we should do with/to/about our own bodies?! I'm glad that you figured it out. Thanks for an inspiring post.

Ami

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

Vickie, I hope to have that same kind of first reaction as you: positive rather than doubtful.

And Shelley....big eyeroll! What was your co-worker thinking? Good lord, if we could "choose" where we lost weight, we'd ALL look different! LOL

debby said...

I liked this post. I actually like my collarbones and my veins, because I couldn't see them for so many years. They are like badges of honor!

Marcia said...

Anna and Shelly - so true! I have definitely had friends and spouse tell me to stop losing weight because I start looking "old".

Well. I'm almost 40. I guess it's probably okay that I don't look 25 anymore. They are correct that just a few pounds can make that crossover. But I like my weight to be within that few lbs. So, sometimes my face will look fine and I've got a few extra lbs on the waist. And sometimes, my face looks a little skinny and I start looking my age.

So what.

Deniz said...

Show off those beautiful collarbones and veins - don't even think of hiding them or being embarrassed by them. Be proud - they are visible symbols of your wonderful journeys, both weight loss and ageing. They are, as such, things to be celebrated!

Good for you, I say, and I join you in a clinked glass when you say "Here’s to no more false perceptions!"