She needed a good laugh.
After all, in just a few weeks, she would leave us — this place she has called home for two years — and move back to be with her family. Usually all giggles, smiles, hugs and laughs, Jackie just wasn’t feeling herself that day.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “You want a good laugh? Here we go.” I’m always up for self-deprecating humor these days.
I ran into my office, reached way into the back of my filing cabinet, and felt the flimsy cover of the book. Walking into Jackie’s office, I held a stack of old photos.
Jackie began to flip through.
“Oh, these are cute,” she said with her mouth slightly turned upward but her eyes still so dark. “Oh, so cute,” she continued. “What are these? Who are these people anyways?”
She couldn’t tell.
“Jackie,” I said as I braced myself for the sheer force of her oncoming laugh. “That’s me. In high school. That one, that’s me, in college.”Crouch down, elbows to chest, forearms over your face, palms down covering your head. It was gonna hit.
“Wait, who is you?”
“That one. There. The skinny one. That’s me.”
“Oh, Liza. Liza, you’re so cute. Gosh, you look so… so… so.. different!”
I often have to translate Jackie’s spanglish, but today, I simply had to translate her niceness.
“I KNOW. I was way thinner in high school and college.”
A week or so has passed since my self-inflicted humor therapy, and I have semi-recovered from the blow to my ego (good thing I have an extra 50 lbs of hey-I-had-three-kids blubb protecting me like a shield of goo). But, there was a certain sting I haven’t been able to let go. In fact, since then, I’ve tried a cayenne pepper-lemon-water cleanse (which lasted 2 hours); have set my alarm clock to run 10 miles a day (which I promptly turned off every morning); and have brought a Lean Cuisine meal for lunch at work (which I slathered with sour cream).
Let’s face it. I’m bigger. I’m fatter. I also totally had eating issues back in college, but even that can’t account for the obvious weight gain.
I’m a little freaked out by the Facebook photos of my super duper awesome looking classmates (who will be in attendance). And, I hate that some of them have had kids and, therefore, totally negate my “Shut up, I’ve had kids” excuse. Damn you, skinny fools, who have spent a life eating right, exercising, and adhering to appropriate portion sizes.
Damn you, I say.
So, yes, 15-years since you last saw me, I am different.
Yes, when you see me, I’m fully prepared for the “Oh, Liza, you look, like, I mean, you look graaaaaahhht.” I graduated from the same school, too. Therefore, I am not an idiot (go, CC!)
I am fatter since college. Get over it (I’m speaking of course, to me, not to you, you awesomely gorgeous skinny-skinnies).
I don’t look like the woman you went to college with back in 1997.
But, honestly, I kind of didn’t like that woman back then.
Looking back, I was superficial. I was totally self-absorbed in my own world. I didn’t know how to care authentically. I hadn’t yet been scarred by cancer, by fear, by worry, and by doubt. I hadn’t yet been embraced, picked up, and carried through my toughest times. I hadn’t experienced the overwhelming display of love and affection from both friends and strangers. I hadn’t yet known what it was like to beg for mercy, to beg for the life of my child, and to ask God to trade my own just so that she could live another day.
I hadn’t known what it was like to care more for the world than I could for my own small place in it. I hadn’t known what it felt like to truly give of myself to someone else, and to receive that same kind of love.
I hadn’t known what it was like to put aside material possessions for one more smile, hug, or laugh from a friend.
I hadn’t yet figured out who was a friend, who was an acquaintance, and who was just hanging around.
I hadn’t known how to fight against injustice, and to fight for peace. I hadn’t met people who were less privileged than myself; I hadn’t even known what that meant.
Back when I was in college, I didn’t know what it meant for me to be a woman. To be a woman of color. To be in a community of color. And to be among allies.
Back when I was in college, I was in lust.
Now, I am in love.
With how my tiny piece in this world means both nothing and everything.
So, when you see me at reunion. I am.
Peace, love, and happy 15th,