Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blind spots

I have come a long way in terms of establishing a more comfortable relationship with my physical self. While I'm not as proactive as I ought to be, in terms of physical activity and healthy choices, I'm kinder to myself than I once was. I nurture my body by treating it to a massage or pedicure now and again. I take vitamins, I take my diabetes meds, and I take care to dress in ways that I hope are flattering. Perhaps the biggest change of all is that I don't hate my appearance any longer. While I'm not excited, exactly, about the way I look, I'm at peace with it now.

I remember in college, having episodes of self-loathing so intense that I had to force myself to walk out of the restroom and back into the classroom after break. I felt so ... unacceptable the way I was, and I was just embarrassed by my own existence. Of course, I look back at photos of myself from that time, and I'm amazed at how completely wrong that perspective was. I was a perfectly, unremarkably fine looking young woman. Not a supermodel, but also certainly not the one-woman sideshow I'd imagined that I was.

So it's gotten better. I typically don't spend a ton of time worrying about how I look, other than that I try to choose fun outfits for work, and I like it when my hair looks a certain way... all the stuff that we all think about, and usually only for about an hour in the morning. But there's been this ongoing thing with this co-worker that has made me feel much more self-conscious, and I'm struggling with how to handle it. He's a bit younger than I am, and very attractive (as verified by some of my other female co-workers) and very well put together. And he's been paying attention to me in ways that feel both good and bad. We see each other only at a weekly meeting, and we sit next to each other and just chat for a minute or two before the meeting begins. Last week he asked if I'd gotten my hair cut (which I had). I said yes and he said "See how good I am?" and gave me a thumbs up. This week, he asked if I'd been working out. I said that I had, a bit, and he nodded and gave me another thumbs up.

I was flattered, of course, but also... yeek. It feels uncomfortable to think that someone male is paying enough attention that those changes register with him. Further, it feels uncomfortable to have him say something about it. I wonder what his motivation is, and that's where things get weird for me. The most obvious interpretation is one of interest. Dude wants to let me know that he finds me attractive. But even typing that feels all wrong. I feel like it couldn't possibly be about me, as if he doesn't actually find me pretty, but he's bored and is just doing a little idle flirting to pass the time at a boring meeting. Or worse, that he's teasing the class fat girl somehow. I do have some experience with being that class fat girl, and being the recipient of some ugly attention from the boys in the class. But adults don't do that to each other. I understand this, and I understand that those experiences, nasty as they were, were over 30 years ago. They're not relevant to this situation. And yet, up they come.

The tough part here is that I'm usually pretty good at reading people and at knowing what's up with them. But I can't tell here, and I can't tell for a variety of reasons. One is that this particular guy is pretty guarded and quiet, and I don't see him except for at this weekly meeting. So I have little information about him, except for the pre-meeting snippets of chat. But the bigger thing, I think, is that this whole interaction hits a decades-old sore spot for me. Much as things have gotten better in my relationship with my physical self, I still feel like there's a blind spot there. I don't always see the pitiful, awful looking girl I used to see, but nothing coherent has taken the place of that image yet. That's an uncomfortable feeling, and it's highlighted by these interactions.

So what do I do? Continue to nurture myself, I suppose, in the ways that I already know how to do. Continue to slowly lose weight and seek out activity, because those are healthy choices to be making. And begin to assemble a new, updated inner vision of myself, maybe even giving private thanks to this gentleman and the dis-equilibrium he has created, since in it is the opportunity for change.

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