Last weekend, I trooped off to the Big City with Hopkins in tow. Now, I'm aggravated that he has passed comment on my driving (remember, I survived his in high school, which was less-than-stellar, trust me), but I'm still glad that he went. I was also mortified to learn, three days out, that during a few minutes when I'd excused myself he paid for my ticket to the improv show...and has yet to utter a single peep about it.
I'd picked up dinner, but I had an ulterior motive: while it stands to reason that I have a higher income/it was not a date/it was technically I who invited him, the bald truth is that my little ego couldn't take the Public Request for the Splitting of the Check. I ran the acute risk of offending him, but I calculated that against my own potential embarrassment. Sorry, Hopkins, I threw you on the fire, sweetie, and I know it... also, his dinner had cost a bit more than my ticket. That's why we'll call it even and not speak of it again.
What happened next in the tiny theater is what haunted my sleep last night. The seating is set up cabaret-style, with chairs surrounding small cocktail tables. They're crammed into a tight space and there was a large reservation scattered around us, although Stefan, my friend in the performing troupe, had made sure that our party was seated house-center. My choices were to crowd Lizzie, or to be a little too close to Hopkins. I figured that I probably had more latitude impinging on his space, but I misjudged it. When I sat down, my chair was too close, and my leg was pressed against his.
I didn't say anything because what played through my mind was, "Oh, crap, if I move, I'll call attention to it." He must've been on the same page. When the gallon or so of water I'd consumed at dinner kicked in, I hopped off to the ladies', and when I returned, Hopkins had quietly shifted his chair about a foot to the right. That felt a little excessive, but I had to admire his discretion. The completely closed body language that followed, though, is what hurt more. To frame it in sarcastic childhood reference, it smacked of Ye Olde Fat Cooties...or worse yet, was it Airedalegirl Cooties?
It's one of those "Suddenly I'm sixteen again, and NOT in a good way" feelings. I felt a sick flush creeping up my neck as I arranged my skirts and tried to do my best impression of a hedgehog, the same as when I have to travel by air and there's some poor schmuck sitting next to me cursing his or her fate for getting stuck next to the land whale. Trust me, I get it: I take up more than my 'fair share' of space. I don't need to have that pointed out...but I bathe regularly and go to extreme lengths to make sure that I don't add to that old chestnut that 'fat people smell'. I try to compact myself as much as physically possible so that my fatness doesn't rub off on others.
I don't like this body. I've been judged on its lack of merit and found wanting so many times on so many levels throughout my life that it's my personal hell. I'm not comfortable in it, but I accept it. It can't change overnight, and I've always tried to be pragmatic about it...but there's something especially crushing when that subtle rejection comes, and moreover when it's by someone about whose opinion one cares. You can do everything under the sun to try to emotionally prepare for it, but it will never be enough. It hurt thirty years ago and it still hurts. Some personal demons just refuse to die.