Every so often I suffer from this severe bout of self-doubts.
I’m in the car, and I look at myself in the mirror.
I see the increasing number of grey strands in my hair; from the three that had been with me for a very long time, now the number has increased so much that I can’t count them anymore. I look at my rust-coloured dress that is stretching unflatteringly at inconvenient places. I then look at the copper-coloured bits that dangle from my ears, and all of a sudden I’m insecure.
“You think I’m a bit too old for this kind of stuff?” I ask my truly-better half.
“What kind of stuff?” He is justifiably wary.
“These danglers and stuff? Look at my hair, look at me. You think I’m too old to be wearing all these?” Now I’m fishing.
“Don’t be crazy. They suit you, you know that.”
I don’t know that, I’ll never be sure, but I’m happy. For the time being, at least.
Cut to a random day at the staff room.
The whole lot of us are desperately trying to lose weight – from the barely thirty Poonam to the forty something me. All except Janet who is almost superhumanly comfortable in her generous body, that is. She says the day she begins to lose weight, or even wants to, we can be sure there’s something wrong with her. I’m secretly jealous of her complete acceptance of herself.
“There was a time when I could eat all I wanted, and not increase a gram of weight.” Each of us has something to say on similar lines.
“True. Until late twenties, I had never faced the problem of weight. Even after that, it used to be so easy to lose the weight I gained,” I moan. “Thirty-five, I think, was the real landmark. After that, it has been an uphill task. And now…” I sigh heavily. My body fat seems to have solidified into lead. And it refuses to melt away.
Cut to one of my random moments of introspection.
I look back on super-skinny childhood. An angry, confused, only-child, completely dependent on the moods, likes and dislikes of the ever-changing extended family in the background, trying to figure out what was happening to her life.
My adolescence and early teens when the problems of the physique could be summed as a vague anxiety about ever-increasing height. Life with its perpetual upheavals had a lot to give – loneliness, unnamed fears, low self-esteem and the aggression that came with it, confusion and more confusion. Refuge just meant books I could escape into.
Late teens and early twenties – they say a woman looks her best during that period. Maybe it is true, maybe it’s just another one of those theories. I’ll never know – I had been too busy waging war with the Medusa called Life. Confusion had found a loyal companion in guilt, and aggression had given way to a perpetual sense of anxiety. Medusa had almost turned me into stone.
Late twenties, early thirties… Still searching, still trying to make sense. The why phase, the why me phase when I had felt residual anger towards the whole world.
Late thirties when I finally began crawling back to normalcy…
Cut back to now.
My sons do find my jelly-belly amusing, but they assure me that they prefer me just the way I am, to the way I was, cheeks like this (here the younger one sucks in his already thin cheeks) in those old pictures. My husband reassures me that we’ll get back in shape, don’t worry. My elder one even proclaims that he likes Julia Roberts because she has your kinda smile, Amma. (Are you honoured, Ms Roberts?)
Grey hair, dark circles, high BMI, back aches, spondylitis pains… with all that, I’m infinitely more comfortable in my skin now than I have ever been in my life.
What about being younger, slimmer and better-looking, I wonder. Do I want to go back to the dark alleyways of my twenties and thirties?
I wonder and I shudder.
“Don’t go back.” My son tells me, after reading what I’d written.
I don’t want to, ever.