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May 16, 2007

Sturdy little introspection.

A few months ago I went on a date with a guy and we were just having conversation at dinner and somehow I stumbled on the topic of ... awkward co-worker dreams.

"Oh you know the one," I said. "Right? I mean you've had one, haven't you? Like where you have an inappropriate uh, well, graphic dream about a coworker, probably someone you never even considered EVER in that way, and you wake up feeling gross and somewhat scandalized and then you can't look at your coworker for four whole days?"

"Um," he paused. "No...?"

And I felt even weirder, then, because the conversation was straying into Not First Date Territory and I needed to get a lid on it real quicklike and then he must have seen my awkwardness because he tried to put me at ease by saying the following:

"I did have a really really huge crush on the two girls who worked in the office at my last job. They were both about eighteen years old and a size zero. They were really cute."

And I was quiet for just a beat and from somewhere inside me, some place of self-confidence I did not know I even had (or perhaps it was self-preservation) I said, "Well what the heck are you doing asking me out? I'm way way over 18 and let me disavow you of the notion I'll ever be a size that even contains a zero in it. I'm more your strong and sturdy type and happy with it thankyouverymuch."

I realized too late that my face was turning red.

He realized too late he'd just said the following:

A) He is a 48-year-old man who is attracted to girls who are seniors in high school and also
B) Who are many, many years younger than I am and also
C) Much skinnier than I am and also
D) He is now on a first date with someone (me) who is not 18, not a size zero, and who is now really uncomfortable and also
E) Light is beginning to dawn that these are not good things for a first date.

And after a trip to the ladies' room and a pause, things sort of re-righted themselves into normal first-date-awkwardness and neither of us brought it up again. No, we never went out again. I am over 21. Much too old.

Later after the date when I was home putting on my pajamas and about to get into bed, I re-ran the scene in my head and started laughing out loud. It was so funny. Men are weird. Women are weird. I'm weird. But mostly what surprised me was that I had apparently somewhere along the way defined myself as "strong" and "sturdy" and "happy" without even knowing it. And I remember on that night, several months ago, proclaiming to myself, I plan to live up to those adjectives.

Which is why this morning came as a shock to me.

I woke up this morning -- months after my proclamation -- and looked over at the clock, and thought about what day this is, and remembered everything that's going on and the very first thought that popped into my head was, "Holy crap, I can't do this, I want to stay home. I'm fat."

Weight is an awesome thing to pin fear of failure on, because you can always retain the illusion that if you were just a little bit skinnier (or a lot of bit) you'd be better at whatever it is you're scared to do.

Even though I know I have used my not-skinniness as an excuse to avoid taking chances in life, and even though I'm trying much harder not to do that anymore, it still surprised me how deep the fear runs. I've been actively trying hard not to be a jerk to myself, trying to forgive myself for not being that size zero girl, trying to be thankful that I have all my legs and toes and arms and parts instead of focusing on the imperfections. I know that I have been taking better care of myself than maybe ever before, with a few blips of wine here and there. I haven't smoked a cigarette in MONTHS, I eat vegetables that aren't fried, I walk a lot, I've made some great progress.

But there it was: I am fat and scared to fail and I want to stay home.

I have to keep reminding myself that fat is not an actual emotion. One cannot feel "fat." One can feel scared, terrified of flying, shy, awkward, and tired. But one cannot technically feel "fat" as an emotional state. If I were bone skinny, I would still feel scared of saying dumb stuff and making a poor impression. I would still be introverted and want to stay home and paint my toes instead of go to New York City and meet scary strangers and publishing industry hoitytoits and people who can sell ice to Eskimos.

So, I will just concentrate on small success, the sturdier things. I'll have a good trip. Probably I will get very nervous and later I'll have too much to drink and make dumb jokes and tell my parents how Spanx can save the whole world from the scourge of visible panty lines and my dad will pretend he didn't hear that last comment and my mom will ask why do I always have to say the word "panties" at dinner?

And then someone will tell the story about the time I almost failed volleyball and how much I have improved in the grace department, and do we think Jack Canfield required stitches when I knocked the booth on him accidentally? And we will laugh. And hope Mr. Chicken Soup has great insurance.

And also hope I do not have an awkward co-worker dream about Mr. Canfield. Because that would just be inappropriate.

Posted by laurie at May 16, 2007 2:05 PM