The Weight of Words

by swellsbennett

After rereading my blog post from Wednesday, I realized that I may have left you with the impression that I have always been a proud tall woman.

That, in fact, is a lie.

When I was very young, one of my friends was about the size of a pixie. She walked on her tiptoes to compensate, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Instead, I was jealous: she was Tinkerbell incarnate. Once, when we were probably seven or eight, I observed our shadows against a wall. I was horrified to realize that my shadow was nearly half-again as wide and twice as long as hers. The impression stuck with me – I can still see those shadows in my mind.

By the time I reached the eighth grade, I was the tallest girl in my class despite my persistent slump. I equated my height with unattractiveness, especially after my seventh-grade teacher told my mom how much she preferred working with the “cute little girls” (i.e., my pixyish friend).  I was so tall that strangers assumed I was a college student – or, at the very least, a high-school senior.

Though my posture improved when I started high school, I was still self-conscious. The boys that I liked were, almost without fail, shorter than me. If they liked me back, they certainly weren’t saying – which only further embedded my “ugliness” in my mind. In fact, a boy I dated briefly in my freshman year made it his self-appointed role to moo at me whenever I passed. A few years later, a college acquaintance described me as frumpy, which was probably as accurate as it was hurtful.

When I married my first husband, I thought I had found someone who believed I was pretty and would love me for me. I discovered my mistake the day he turned to me and said, “We may not be good-looking people, but at least you’re smart.” Surprisingly, I didn’t leave him immediately (or stab him in the eye while he slept).

I only truly became comfortable in my own skin after the end of that marriage. Slowly but surely, I began to recognize that I was beautiful – inside and out. That’s not to say that there weren’t setbacks. A former boss thoughtlessly laughed at my attempts to “improve the packaging,” so to speak. He implied that there was only so much that could be done. But, as I’ve said before, when I ended my first marriage, I was prepared to be alone for the rest of my life. That resolve led me to work on loving who I was and not worry about what the rest of the world saw – or didn’t see, for that matter.

I’m one of the lucky ones: no one’s words can make me any less happy today, and, as it happens, I did find a man who believes I’m beautiful.

But you never know how long it will take a person to shed the thoughtless words you lay across their shoulders. Some will never be free of them. And that’s got to be bad karma, right?

English: Tinkerbell by Diarmuid Byron O'Connor...

English: Tinkerbell by Diarmuid Byron O’Connor commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital London 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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