Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The real me

Yesterday, I found myself near a department store. So, I decided to head in and abuse myself until I felt really depressed.

Well, that wasn't how it started out—but that's pretty much how it ended.

I made the mistake of doing a little spontaneous swimsuit shopping. Foolish, I know. That sort of adventure requires preparation, the pumping up of one's ego, a salad for breakfast to alleviate guilt, etc. But I broke all the rules because, by golly, the suits were all 50% off. Unfortunately, that was 50% off of the price, not the size of my thighs.

(If you're one of the two guys who actually read this, I apologize. I think a guy can relate if he thinks of areas of his body that haven't held up too well over the years, or of tasks that used to be easy that now require real effort. I'll try not to be too graphic or girly. I'm not a terribly girly girl, anyway, so I think you'll be safe.)

It began innocently enough, with simple purchase pursuits like toilet paper and sunscreen. And then. There they were, in all their stretchy, bright-colored glory. Animal prints, pink hyacinths, little skirty bottoms that one might believe could hide flaws. They hung enticingly, just the styles I'd been admiring in a magazine recently, with adjustable straps and reinforced tummies and all those wonderful extras that would turn me into a model. I couldn't help myself; I slipped into the happy world of what I look like in my mind. I grabbed an assortment of tops and bottoms and carried them with misguided hope to the dressing room.

Oh. My. Goodness. The first top was too small, which squeezed certain areas painfully until I feared I'd be unable to remove the article. I tried the other, and it was too large and turned the same aforementioned areas into ridiculously unflattering, saggy triangles. All through this painful process, I couldn't help noticing that my arms are really quite dimply and white. And round. And that there are parts of the lower arm that appear to be nearly detached because of the way they function independently from the rest of my upper torso.

But oh, that's just above the waist. Below was even worse. More fishy whiteness, more dimpling and orange peels where there should be none, more bulgy parts that refused to stay hidden smoothly under spandex. Why are all the modern, fashionable waistbands right at the plumpest part of my waist? In my mind, I'm still a slender, wasp-waisted gal... Where is that girl now? Oh, that's right. Over 40, had a baby, can't stop eating mac and cheese, etc.

The rear view was too upsetting to discuss. I realize I could amend some of this with harder exercise and more eating discipline, but honestly, it would require a lifestyle choice and self-centered approach that I just can't imagine happening right now. I have a 6-year-old, I can't justify the cost of joining a gym or hiring a trainer, and I already feel as if I've given up so much with the whole prediabetes issue that I'm just not willing to give any more.

The solution? I'll wear my old suit, which sports an old-lady skirt, and I'll wear my cute little cover-up I bought on super-clearance last fall, and I'll stop looking in 3-way mirrors under fluorescent lighting. Even if I get thinner and more fit, I can't ever match the image of me that I carry in my own mind. The idealistic vision that can't be found anymore. The imaginary Mel. I don't believe it's possible to regain that fresh face, the wide-open eyes, the tight neck skin, the hairless chin.

I'll do what I can. I don't look that bad, truly; I won't sit around beating myself up. Even as I left the dressing room, I saw far chubbier women shopping nearby and they weren't one bit worried about their thighs. I know I'm thinner than I was before my son was born, and I know I'm healthier than I used to be, too. And thank goodness I don't live at a beach where people hang out in swimsuits all the time. That's unsanitary, anyway. Right?

Still, it's a sobering moment, when you face the real you in a harsh reflection, and that real you confronts the happy younger you that lives cluelessly in your mind. Hey, little girl, says nowadays me. Hey, step aside or I'll sit on you. This is my house now. Move it, you bag o' bones.

Damn, I miss that bony kid. Or at least I miss her outward appearance. Now, pass me that big bathing dress and a bag of chips, okay?

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