There are only a few stories in my family mythology of me as an infant. The first one is how big I was—that is a story I have heard a lot of. I was born big. Really big—ten-pounds-something-ounces big. I came out of the womb full grown with a full head of hair and chubby cheeks and chubby thighs, or so the story goes. The second story I hear a lot of is that I once ate so fast that I projectile vomited across the room and how this act of fountain like evacuation scared my parents into thinking that I had brain damage. The third and final story of me as a baby is how my grandfather used to call me “obese”, as his pet name for me, and how I seemed to find him calling me this horrible name was completely hysterical. It became a thing between us, or so the stories go, he would call me obese and I would laugh. Whenever I hear that story about me laughing it always makes me seriously sad.
I am not above telling you that I was a gorgeous baby. I was. I look at the baby me, fat cheeks and fat thighs and all and I see perfection. I love her. I am mad for her. I want to hold her in my arms and tell her I love her and I want to protect her and warn her about all the bumps and bruises and battle scars that she is in for and I want to kiss her little fat cheeks and tell her she is gorgeous. It is so easy to love her. I don’t even care if anyone agrees with me, no one can talk me out of believing that I was a beautiful baby.
Me, on the other hand, I am not so easy to love. I look at me in the mirror and my eye goes straight to the flaws. I see all that is wrong with me. I think I learned to be such an expert on flaw identification from my mother. I was trained in the higher-art of flaw finding by an expert with a black belt in flaw finding. She, whenever she meets someone or sees someone on TV, immediately sees what is wrong with them. She then shares with me their flaws. “She is a pretty girl if her jaw wasn’t so big.” “It’s a shame about her hips”, etc. Only I pretty much kept my flaw-seeking target on myself. I wasn’t so interested in the flaws of others and mostly I didn’t notice them. I tended to notice the good in others and use their good to compare and contrast and attack myself with. If you have a long neck I notice it because mine is short. If you have big teeth I can’t stop staring at them because I have tiny teeth. Your “flaws”— I don’t care about them and I certainly don’t see them as flaws. I find them charming and delightful and idiosyncratically wonderful, as they are what make you you—and I definitely don’t see them as something you should fix. When He-weasel once complained about his nose and contemplated for a moment that he should have it fixed I went mildly ballistic, “but I love your nose. It’s your nose.” If only I could do this for myself. I can’t.
It took YEARS and YEARS and YEARS of therapy to get to the place that I fully and completely understand that when my mother is finding fault with me or you or anyone and everyone it is because she is constantly doing that to herself. And it took even more years with Igor to get to the place where when I hear her tell me that she hates my hair or that I don’t look like I have lost much weight and how short my neck is that I hear a sad and insecure woman who at 80-something still thinks her highest value is about how she looks and that, to me, is heart breaking.
Now that I am at my goal weight all that self-loathing about my hips and ass and tummy and calling myself “obese” and then laughing about it is officially over. I am not fat, not anymore. However now that I am not fat my expertly trained eye is looking for new areas of inadequacies, and believe me I have loads of them. LOADS. And I am likely to point them out to you as soon as you say anything nice to me just so you know that I know how flawed I am. It is, I think, a way that I protect myself. If I say it first then maybe you won’t, not that you would—-it’s just that we all tend to expect others to treat us the way that our parents did and so I am not in fact protecting myself from you; I am protecting myself from my mother.
As soon as I hit goal weight I noticed my face had seriously lost some of its firmness. I no longer saw a fat-chubby cheeked gal when I looked in the mirror. Now I saw a fallen flan. And, as is my way, I became obsessed with fixing it. I am about to admit with no small amount of shame what I have done to fix this:
1. I had painful and not inexpensive Titan laser treatments.
2. I used Oil of Olay’s Pro X Intensive Five Day Firming Treatment.
3. I use Peter Thomas Roth’s FirmX and a host of other skincare serums, creams and elixirs.
4. I use Peter Thomas Roth’s Temporary firming mask.
Yeah, all of that stuff worked. My face is in fact firmer. And I know it would have been psychologically better if I had accepted my falling flan of a face but I didn’t. I fixed it. My darling He-weasel who has no training in the dark arts of flaw finding, even he noticed how astonishingly firmer my face is. I am tickled that I am at goal weight and my face no longer looks like a fallen flan—however I know myself well enough to know that I am not happy unless I am dissatisfied. Ugh. I need a moment to process that last sentence. Let me say it again, for the record, I am not happy unless I am dissatisfied. That is a big one. So it is likely that I am going to go hunting for another area of imperfection and start obsessing about it. My hope is that by telling you this that maybe I won’t. Maybe I will cut myself some slack and enjoy what I have and not flaw seek. Maybe some of that unshakable love that I have for the baby me will show up for the 40-something year old version. I somehow doubt it. I will say that for today I am happy with myself. Even as I write that I am noticing how terrified I am. I am terrified that those of you who know me will think, “She shouldn’t be. She ought to work on fixing x,y and z.” Laughable, huh?