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*