“it wasn’t iced tea”
In the middle of browsing the Ford Escapes in the middle of a car lot off 99, Jeffrey offered to get us some refreshing beverages in the 80-degree heat. I went first, being female, and asked for a cola, four times. Our toddler James would have juice, we all decided, after debating what else besides soda he could drink. Then, Eddie finally said he’d like a cola like me, he guessed, but then 15 seconds later, he threw out, “If you’ve got lemonade...” as our sales guy went back to the main office.
We checked out the fourth Escape, a midnight-blue number, and I was about to check out the restroom with James when Jeffrey returned, handing me a can and two choices of juice for my little boy, then went off to find Eddie, yelling toward his vicinity, “Hey, good news, I found you pink lemonade.”
After I helped James with his straw, I looked at my can, brow furrowing, momentarily forgetting my original order. It was a can of sweetened lemon iced tea. “Did Eddie want this? No, he wanted lemonade. What did I say I wanted?” I thought and thought, until I remembered, cola. The guy simply forgot.
This didn’t surprise me in the least. Happens all the time – only to me.
As a footnote, when Eddie first stepped out of his Ford Explorer hours earlier, Jeffrey came right over, offered his hand, and backed away slightly with a growing smile, “Hey, you’re the jazz keyboard player right? We did a gig together a few years ago, with Edmonia Jarrett. I sat in on a few songs, I’m a singer.”
It took my husband a few beats to recollect, but he did.
THAT happens to him all the time as well. Everybody remembers him, many name, date, serial number, from a mere glance, decades ago. Luckily, our son James was born with the same charisma; people just love him, he’s the kind of kid that parts crowds, that the professional wedding photographer stops to take several hundred rolls of while ignoring the wedding party, strangers drop everything they’re doing to accommodate him.
After years of them not doing so for me, all my life off and on really, I figured it was because: a) I’m physically unappealing but not in a really offensive, noticeable way, b) I’m not model slim with golden round perky breasts and a Britney butt, c) I don’t go out of my way to make myself heard, known or noticed, d) I’m about as sociable as your average hermit.
All this coupled with a comment my best friend Jon threw at me one day while walking around a block of Honolulu at dusk, must’ve been when we were still in our 20s, “You’ve got a dark soul from previous lives.” He’d gone to a psychic and couldn’t wait to share. “No, that’s not bad news!” he yelled, after seeing my face darken. “She also said you will have to work harder than everybody else, that nothing will ever come to you easily. You see? It makes you stronger too, because you’ll have overcome much more.”
I can usually count on several factors in my daily run-ins with people outside my family and my spare count of friends: My name will be misspelled, mistaken for another name or forgotten altogether. My orders will end up wrong. At least one bus rider will accidentally sit on me. I will go out of my comfort zone once, go to an acquaintance, maybe the window guy who also attends the same church and seemed so nice, say hello, and be greeted quizzically, as if he never met me. Someone will remember Eddie from his Bayshore, Long Island period, when he was only a child, or from one of his many gigs, here or in Hawaii (and they’ll be able to spout off facts and figures about Eddie’s personal history that not even his cousins know).
This cypher status has rubbed off on me in that I no longer bother to remember other people’s names either. They’re just faces in a crowd, turned the other way.
But it wasn’t always like this. Guess what changed? I’ll give you two hints from television, circa 2004: Extreme Makeover, The Swan.
I never had plastic surgery, but I did lose weight, firm and tone up, from time to time, rendering me a lithe size 6, size 8, the body of a jogger, smooth supple skin, long, thick luxurious dark brown hair, an actual face instead of craters, folds and lines, just beautiful.
From time to time, I’d get sick of my fat self, go on a diet and exercise plan, depending on the trend of the day... once I went jogging and didn’t stop for three years, ate only healthy, vegetarian breakfasts and lunches, pigged out on the weekends, cut back to walking everyday when a leg injury from a marathon put me out, couldn’t eat as much because of the chronic incontinence from what was supposed to be a simple anal fistulectomy (scraping out the infected tissue of my sphincter, leaving tissue paper for muscle)...
Those were the worst years of my life.
Women actively hated me. Men wouldn’t stop hitting on me. I felt like a slab of (very lean) meat on display, pomp and circumstance, little substance when deep inside, I remembered these same men and women who ignored me, shunned me, treated me like an ugly duckling not worth remembering a simple name when it was just comical, intense, poetic, original, uncommon, invisible ugly me.
The fashionable, often revealing, clothes I felt pressured to wear, to accentuate my reduced-size body didn’t fit the real me, and I wasn’t talking about physical size. Besides feeling like a complete idiot and being cold half the time, I couldn’t shake the sense that I was perpetuating a fraud, or shake off my growing resentment at a society that could so easily, gleefully change its mind about a complex human being just because the outer wear grew smaller.
I couldn’t be myself anymore. I couldn’t focus on the things I enjoyed doing, sharing my excitement with others. It’s no wonder I stopped writing those times either (what was there to write about, how fabulous I looked?)
Because we were all too enamored of my exterior. Every guy I spoke with gave me that look, either full of lust or puppy love, and then my mind got full of itself, thinking I was so hot I was causing all these guys to fall for me. The women who didn’t hate me wanted to be my friend, and suddenly it was easy to talk to them about anything, because of my package. I was deemed clean enough to consort with their kind.
At some point, I veered from who I was, to who I thought I should be, who they saw, a conceited, shallow form of attraction, little else, fussing with my hair, checking every available mirror for the stray hair or booger, certainly not a woman who has really genuinely had to fight for every single achievement one hundred times harder than the average woman, a woman who saw ugliness from within and beauty throughout in what most of society deemed repulsive, a woman who used to openly joke about stray pubic hairs and snot rockets for after-dinner snacks.
My definition of beauty far surpasses that of most mere mortals. People’s “Most Beautiful” might as well be, People’s “Most Typical” “Most Ordinary” “Most Disgusting.” I’m the kind of person who leafs through all these celebrity soap magazines, thinking, “These blond chicks all look alike, that one looks like a horse, the rest are like slices of Wonder bread,” ... the kind who stops dead in her tracks at photos of aesthetically flawed people, drooling at the sexy curves of their misshapen faces, the crooked teeth, the bump of a nose, the cut on the lips, who gets wet when a guy or a gal can make me laugh until I crap my pants (ugh, sorry about the rerun...).
How could I live in a Stepford world of settling for the seamless plastic of an ideal that never belonged to me in the first place?
I sometimes think about Britney Spears and what she’s done for (to) today’s young, impressionable girls. Here’s a perfect example of a beautiful woman wasting her potential, so caught up in the perks of her ample surface beauty that she had nothing left to fight for inside, where inspiration, revelation and resurrection meet to create artistry magic. She could’ve developed her voice, attended acting classes, learned new languages, spent five years with under-privileged ordinary-looking girls in a Third World, done something else besides used 1/8th of her God-given blessings to perpetuate a stereotype.
Instead, she’s created the ugliest sort of role model for the future leaders of tomorrow. Parents are hard-pressed to find conservative, modest, suitable, age-appropriate clothing for their daughters, age five through 17 in any department store without having to hire their own private designer. Thirteen-year-olds are dressing down, as streetwalkers, shaking their booties and ta-tas for older men, thinkin’ Brit would approve. Brit is busy ruining her life by marrying one of her dancers, buying her own wedding, making her future husband feel very much like a well-kept gigolo, while his former girlfriend just gave birth to another of their children, this, right after shaking off her hasty, one-night Vegas style wedding to a former childhood friend, who has recently gone blabbing about their sexual exploits to the British tabloids. Brit’s songs are nothing more than self-love homages to her body and her body’s power over men, as well as a stupefyingly sexist anthem for her legions of wannabes.
A piece of red string tied around her left wrist, symbolizing kabbalah’s religious belief, seems a bit ridiculous at this point, don’t you think?
As for me, I’m semi-content to live out the rest of my life in relative obscurity, with only a handful of rare souls more than content to have known me. Some of those rare souls actually find me quite captivating all on my own, with no help from Slim Fast, thank you very much. As hokey, phony baloney as it sounds, I manage to see beauty through their eyes on a regular basis. My son James even thinks it’s no problem for me to join him on the kiddie swing, that sweet kid.
The yo-yo dieting has finally taken its toll to where, I’m afraid I will never be able to lose weight in any unconventional way. The traditional eat less, exercise more, cut out fats, etc. is about all that’s left for me, and still I hesitate.
What am I doing this for? So I can walk into a room and stop everyone in their tracks, everyone I’ve grown to know suddenly treating me differently, like it’s now okay for them to really love me, because my facade has caught up to my soul?
That would hurt, to see their pleased, relieved expressions, to hear their compliments, “Oh you look so much better now! I never realized what a beautiful lady you really are.”
The only reason left is my health, and eventually, it’ll happen.
But mark my words, I will always remember the people who loved me the same, regardless, who found beauty in me when I weighed more, who could spot me in the being of a Dalmatian puppy if need be (remember the Robin Williams’ 1998 movie, “What Dreams May Come,” and his child had been Cuba Gooding’s angel all along?)...
... and who know I asked for a cola, not iced tea.
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