When I was still a little girl, and turning toward teendom, I asked Mom, “What would you do if one of your kids turned out ugly?” Up until that time, I never thought about whether I looked or acted beautifully. I was just me. What else could I be. I suppose that’s what it means to “Be like a child,” or free from worry, “like the lilies of the field.”
Mom’s eyes opened so wide that the white around all that deep brown showed. Her brows arched up high on her forehead. I knew that look. That was the kind of look where she got sorta peeved at me for asking so many questions out of nowhere.
Mom’s response was as wise as any prophets:
“Why I never gave it a thought. Why would any of my children turn out ugly? Each of you are already so beautiful. What in the world could change that?”
I’m telling you, I felt exactly like one of those lilies of the field in all its splendor. Beautiful. Beautiful just the way I was made. Not exactly like any of the other flowers bobbing and weaving around me.
I looked at myself from the inside out, and never considered that others could not see the me that I saw. I never thought about whether I was too fat or too short or my hair was a good color or my name was weird. Those things would come to me once I fully entered into my teendom and later, as an adult.
I must have seen it coming, back then, when I asked Mom that question.
“You’re the big girl, right,” Mr. K said when he picked me up to babysit his two grade-school kids.
“No, I’m the shortest.”
“But you’re the biggest, right?”
Well, I did have five sisters and four of them were younger than me, so I guess I was bigger, but I never considered myself the ‘Big Girl,’ I was the runt of the litter, always a little shorter than most of my classmates.
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, you seem bigger.”
Mom said maybe he meant I seem like the most mature. “There’s nothing big about your size.”
She was right, although Bonita did have those long legs and torso, she looked like Twiggy in her mini-skirts; and Deanna, well Deanna always looked like a model stepping out of a magazine.
I read in Parade magazine that girls with strange names like Adele (a little less strange than my own,) have a disadvantage because teachers right away dislike like them just a little. Susys and Bettys, and Carols, and Marys have an advantage. I always liked the uniqueness of my name. I never had to be Betty S or Betty M, or change my name to Betsy so people didn’t get me mixed up with someone else. Then again, in sixth grade I did get sick of my nickname, and put everyone on the straight path. That’s on account of learning about India.
“My name is not Delhi,” I said. “That’s the name of a city.”
“But it’s your nickname,” Mom said. “It’s a way of saying I love you.”
“My name is Adela, not Delli.”
Believe me, everyone except Uncle Ken and Grandpa and maybe Mike, my best-friend-neighbor, got in line super-fast. I had a way of letting people know who was in charge. Mom said maybe that’s why people thought I was bigger than 5’2″. I suppose that’s just the kind of flower I was; a lot more like clover than a long-stemmed rose.
It wasn’t until started having children of my own, that body image got to be a focus for me. That’s when super-skinny was super-cool.
All six girls got on the body image bandwagon. Doctors recommended we not gain more than 20 pounds during pregnancies, the less the better. Bonita took up drinking coffee, no calories, and having popcorn for dinner. One husband threatened to line us up and take pictures of our back-sides and ask us to pick our own out. “Not a one of you is fat,” he said. “I’m tired of hearing all this fat talk.”
Somewhere along the way, we began to see our splendor as weeds. Somehow we lost sight of Mom’s “You are already so beautiful. What could ever change that?”
BlogHer.com posted “What’s all the Buzz about Fat Talk” . I decided to stop talking about dieting, weight, beauty, and size. This happened right before I took a trip with Mom and three beautiful sisters. I was not 100% successful, but I did okay, maybe a B+ or an A-.
I want to focus on what my Best-girlfriend-ever, Connie said to me a few months ago: “At our age, we need a little cushion, a little reserve. We may need it in a few years.” Connie owns a homey assisted living facility. She’s seen many women waste away in their vanity.
Too many of my friends’ dying parents have said about their end-stage weight loss something like this: “Well, at least I’ll look good in my coffin.” My father said this very thing, which I suppose you could say is looking for the silver lining. I want to look at a different silver lining.
Okay, it sounded easy. We had such a wonderful time: laughing, sharing make-up tricks, talking deep into the night, and yes, returning to our carefree childhood (as in practicing “Prancercise” as our next wedding dance forray.)
When we returned, he sisters posted our pictures on Facebook. I thought, oh my, I need to diet. I am the fattest person in the bunch.” Deanna posted, “I’m never wearing that shirt without a sweater, look how big my arms are!” No one seemed happy about how she looked.
I showed the picture to my daughter. I felt like an outsider, apart from the group. She may not be as wise as my mother, but she sure can make me laugh. Here’s what she said to me:
“Look how you’re standing there, proud and tall, not hiding behind anyone, as if to say, “I got something nobody else has.”
I want to focus on the inside out again, like when I was a little girl. Sure, it’s important to watch numbers: weight, nutrition, cholesterol, glucose, heart rate, angle of mobility. These things are measures of health. I’ll feel better.
As important, I want to be like a child, content to look at myself from the inside out. Knowing that’s the best me there is. I want to be free of worry about what I wear and how I look. I want to be like the lilies of the field.