I looked at myself naked in my bathroom mirror the other day. Really looked at myself. And, in some ways, it’s as if I’m seeing myself for the very first time. Have my boobs always looked like that, or have even they changed since A’s death? They just look different to me somehow. Are they like flowers that can wither away without somebody to care for them?
My husband used to tell me that every time he saw me naked it was like the first time. And even after 25 years of marriage, if he entered a room talking to me but found me topless, he was suddenly mute. It was as if his brain would shut off, and his mouth would follow. He would call me his “dream girl” and tell me how I looked like an angel. Although these things were not true, he saw me that way.
Without those constant ego-boosting moments, is my body doomed to waste away? If “wasting away” meant I’d finally lose some of this weight, maybe I’d be OK with it, but it is more like the Hulk returning back to his normal, ordinary, uninteresting self. As if I’m losing color and becoming just plain ol’ Bruce Banner. If Bruce Banner were an overweight, middle-aged white woman, that is.
But perception is a funny thing. The way we see ourselves isn’t necessarily the way we are seen by others. My husband used to wear what I called his “love goggles” and he saw me as a perpetual teenager; I was never anything less than the girl he fell in love with. No matter how close I got to the half-century mark.
A friend from high school told me recently that she saw me as always being put together because I was the weirdo who wore pencil skirts and stiletto pumps to class. To me, I was the doofus who needed to find my own style because my mother refused to buy me fashionable clothing. She insisted on either making them herself (and although she was a good seamstress, she had a tendency to procrastinate until by the time the clothes were made, they were no longer “in”) or buying knock-offs. And I’m not talking about the Frauda purses you can buy out of the trunk of a car in New York City. I’m talking designer Toughskins when I asked for Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. [If you’ve never heard of Toughskins, thank your lucky stars. They were Sears’ long-lasting jeans for those kids who wore out the knees of their clothing too quickly, and the material was anything but denim. Seriously… they were as uncool as uncool could be.]
In any case, there came a point around 9th or 10th grade where I came to the realization that if I was going to be out of fashion, I might as well be so out of style, that it would seem intentional. If I wasn’t going to fit in, then I going to stand out. On my terms. And so I collected a closet full of the aforementioned pencil skirts and stiletto pumps, as well as polka-dotted clam-diggers and electric blue blazers and even a bowtie. My style, like my personality, was eclectic and quirky.
That sense of “differentness” is what attracted A to me. He always told me that he liked that I wasn’t like everyone else. Good thing, I guess, since there was never any danger of me assimilating to the status quo. I’m just not born to fit in. But when I hear from other people such as my friend, who were also drawn to my oddness, or who saw it as being put together, I can’t help but laugh. It just goes to show that most of our insecurities are in our own minds.
Which brings me back to my original point. Am I truly only seeing myself now as I am or as I always was? Have I changed since becoming a widow, or has the glow my husband cast begun to diminish? If I have changed, am I capable of changing back under the right conditions?
In one of my online widow communities, the question was posed about our fears in dating again. Personally, I have many concerns, but they can all be summed up in that I fear there is no one who can (or will) love me as much as A did. He knew me inside and out and loved me despite my many flaws. It seems unlikely that I could find someone else who would be willing to overlook them as he did. He remembered what my body looked like before having kids. He knew my curves back when they were much smaller (and not in fashion – I missed out on the best part of that trend, too!), but he loved them when they got bigger, too.
Bottom line? I doubt there exists anyone on the planet who would care to see me unclothed at this phase in my life. Or even wearing a swimsuit, for that matter. So I guess it’s a good thing that I’m not ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool just yet. And that’s the naked truth.
© 2017 Many Faces of Cheri G All Rights Reserved
[If you’re wondering what quirky, little creature adorns the top of this post, that is a naked mole rat. Although most people consider him hideous, I find him oddly cute. Probably because I relate to his unusual appearance.]