posts tagged with 'appearances'

Is my house my new body?

In college when I would meet a potential friend I would secretly sum her up by placing her on an attractiveness continuum. The important factor in my calculation was her closeness to or distance from my own weight-to-height-ratio. If someone was too thin or too tall I'd think: she'll never be friends with me.

So if I were to just meet you in 2001, it would be a compliment to hear me say: "I don't know if we can be friends; you're so skinny."

It's been a long time since I judged someone's potential friendship based on their BMI. Since growing up and having children I've learned a few things. One is that most women's weight is genetic, beyond their control, and has very little to do with any objective measure of success or sanity. Skinny women can be failed, crazy, and unpopular. And beyond that, failure, insanity and not fitting in don't carry the same punch as they did before I experienced all those things.

I get now that "You're so skinny" might not automatically be a compliment. I get now that it's a rather personal and rude thing to say.

This is not to imply that I'm so very enlightened. It's just that in the past ten years I seem to have switched hang-ups. Because the other day I told a friend something to the effect of, "I don't know if you can like me because you're house is so much cleaner than mine."

And my friend appropriately took me aside and said something like, "What's this bullshit about comparing houses, Leah? WTF?"

Indeed, what is this bullshit about? I may look so post-vanity with my no-makeup thing and my dreadlocks thing. But the truth just might be that MY HOUSE IS MY NEW BODY.

Come to think of it, my house is actually a pretty good proxy for my former body obsession. My houses is the size that it is, and I don't have much option of moving. I think people who live in nicer or cleaner houses must look down on me as lazy or insufficiently self-controlled. Maintaining my house in a condition I consider "acceptable" takes more effort than I am capable of.

Not to mention the fact that parts of my house are often dirty, smelly, or broken, and I don't want you to see those parts.

So yeah, just like that body that it took me so long to 'accept.'

Do you think this will be the rest of my life? Displacing my neuroses from one area to another in the vain belief that I'm getting cured? If so, I fear I'll always be worried about someone judging me, and the criteria will only get increasingly more bizarre.

I don't want to hold back closeness in relationships because someone sews more than I do, or because someone makes fancier baby food, or because someone's children are better behaved than mine. I want to make new friends without apologies for who I am.

I want to be a friend without a fear of divulging my lack of capability. I want to put a stop to this now.

So today I say this to the world: My house gets messy. It gets really really messy. I let Harvey take out all my cds and rearrange the liner notes. There is a box of legos in the hallway that doesn't seem to be going back into the attic. I vacuum and I don't know what happens next.

Harvey leaning against his bedroom door surrounded by CDs and liner notes

a regular day here

I could be doing this better, but no. This is just where I'm at right now. I hope you'll still be friends with me.


the beauty of a child

When Harvey was a few days old, he was a pretty good-looking baby. A few weeks later, though, he was suffering from a terrible case of baby acne that left his cheeks red and pitted; between that and his patchy hair there weren't many pictures taken of him for a little while. It is ever thus. Our children are always beloved, but heaven knows they aren't always beautiful.

I sure know I wasn't. The second-grade picture is a reasonable showing, but by fourth I was showing a little too much buck teeth. The "rat-tail" hairdo didn't help me in middle school, nor did the braces and acne freshman year in high school. If Leah is to be believed, though, I made something of a recovery a few years after that.

These days with Harvey the cycle between beauty and... otherwise... is a matter of weeks or even days. He managed to get some good genes from somewhere (must have been his mama) so he's generally doing alright, but as I noted before he tends not to take the sort of care with his appearance that you'd expect from a model. Scratches, food smudges, and plain dirt are long-time occupants of his face, and lately he's branched out to magic marker as well (during the Christmas Eve church service he all unseen applied a very Robert Smith-looking smear of orange around his lips). Worst of all, though, are the weepy eyes that are the most notable feature of his current cold. Not only is the eye-goop and clumpy eyelash look a little off-putting, the irritation (and interrupted sleep!) have given him more droop to the eyes than usual. The J Crew catalog would not have him in his current state. Ah well, he'll soon be restored to beauty.

As for Zion, he's still working the cheeks and the smile, and he's lately added a bit of tongue-sticking-out (not yet captured on film), so he's pretty much set for cuteness. Especially with the cheeks.