present imperfect

Here’s the thing: I want to be perfect. When you’re perfect,
you’re bulletproof. You’re a perfectly smooth surface with no handholds,
nothing to latch on to or worry at. You cannot make a perfect façade crumble;
because it is perfect, it is not even a façade.

The problem, of course, is that perfect does not exist.
Perfection is not achievable, flaws are inevitable, and that is one of those
facts of life you learn alongside the ones that tell you gravity is heartless,
life is unfair, and toast will always fall butter-side-down. The problem with me is that I keep throwing
myself out of trees and expecting it to not hurt, I really believe that someday
I will win the lottery and also that death will be abolished, and I continue to
be careless about how I hold my buttered toast. And I continue to hate myself–a
deep-down, tooth-grinding, sick-feeling kind of hate–for not being perfect. Bullet proof. Untouchable, irreproachable,
seamless. Perfect.

The problem is further compounded by this fact: I know I
have flaws. I am very aware of my flaws, and I do what I can to hide my flaws
and usually, despite the occasional spectacular flameout where my mouth runs
away with the spoon or I fail in a very public and inelegant way, I am pretty
convinced that I have done such a good job of being sneaky, pulling the wool
over peoples’ eyes, of moving through the world so gracefully and with such
light feet that no one would ever dream of considering the possibility of
thinking that it could be true that I am broken. (This delusion, I am aware, is
part of the brokenness.) And of course it comes as a shock, when you realize
that you are transparent as freshly-vinegar-ed glass, and you never had a hope
in hell of closing the curtains before the whole crowd gathered round to take
pictures with very big flashbulbs.

You try to forget that other people can see you and see
right through you; that you think you’re hiding and clever, but in reality, you
are standing out in the middle of a snowy field, dressed in red, and oh, look,
you’re on fire. Not conspicuous at all. Politeness dictates that everyone
pretend that they don’t notice you are smoking and burning and melting, and you
cling to the idea that these are inviolable secrets, your personality
flaws, and it is surprisingly easy to pretend, and surprisingly easy to
forget. It is a survival mechanism, I think, and those suckers are powerful.

There’s always an underlying sense of unease, though, a
subconscious fear of discovery, of being found out. It is bad enough when it is
a batshit psychological issue, but now, now my body feels a little bit like one
of those secrets. Every time someone
tells me that I have lost a great deal of weight, that I am skinny, I want to
tell them but wait. But you don’t know the real truth. You can’t see what’s
under these jeans. You don’t want to know what’s under these jeans, because you
wouldn’t be saying good job, you’d be saying good god.

I compromise–I say, "But I lost my tits!" when
what I want to say is "I look like a rumpled paper bag. I look a thousand
years old. I have flaps and grooves and valleys. I can gather up the skin of my
belly into a fistful of flesh, and when I let go? It stays there, a wrinkled
ball. You don’t want to know what is under here. You don’t want to know how
much I hate looking at myself in the mirror, naked. How everything I put on my
body is judged not for its cute sassy sexiness, but for the extent that it
hides the fact that I am an ice cream bar, left in the sun. Even as I type
this, I am squirming with embarrassment. I am a little bit ashamed.

My body is so far from perfect, and it embarrasses me. I
knew this would happen, I saw the pictures that people posted after their
massive weight loss, I understood the consequences of being obese and
stretching out your skin and I thought I was at home with the fact that a
weight-loss surgery patient will never be a bikini model. I thought I was okay
with that; I am surprised at the extent to which the reality upsets me, this
visible, tangible, palpable imperfection that I am confronted with, every day.
I know it is its visibility, its tangibility that is so upsetting.

It is not good enough, this place I am at, this body that is the result of so
much difficulty and stress and work is not good enough and that scares me, almost as much as the
possibility of being found out.

  3 comments for “present imperfect

  1. anon
    February 6, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I hear this loud and clear. I get angry at myself for never having learned to love my body. I like it much better now than when I was really heavy, but I still look at it in the mirror and see flaws, I’m still disappointed that I can’t have a model’s body, I still wish I had smooth firm skin instead of sags and stretch marks. This has more to do with psychology than physicality, I suspect.

  2. February 6, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Even though I don’t comment often, I read your blog regularly, and today’s post and yesterday’s made me squirm in empathy. Sometimes my body feels like something I just want to claw my way out of, Alien-baby style.

    How do we become at home in these corporeal homes? Especially when you go through so much anxiety to look and hopefully feel better, and then you look in the mirror and berate yourself just the same. I say “you” in the collective sense, of course, but I could be saying “I” instead. It’s all the same.

    I haven’t lost the weight I’d like to lose yet; I have over 50 pounds to go. And then? Will everything be sunshiny and carefree like some fucking Old Navy commercial?

    One of the weight-loss bloggers who I check in on often lost a large amount of weight and then had a tummy tuck. Will I decide to have cosmetic surgery if I don’t like how I look, even after I’ve lost those remaining 50 pounds? I certainly don’t judge those who go that route, but the idea scares me right now. What if I got the tummy tuck, then what? Would I be embarrassed about the scar from the surgery and still turn unhappily away from that body in the mirror?

    So wow, I didn’t say anything helpful at all here, but I hope you get the idea that I do relate to your Body Anguish.

  3. February 7, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    If you’re a woman, it never ends. I went from a size 10 to a size 6 and found new imperfections to focus on. My stomach still wasn’t flat enough for a bikini. I had lots of spider veins. Etc. Etc. I actually STOPPED wearing shorts because I was so embarrassed about my spider veins! Sigh.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *