Open Letter To Patti Smith, Day 5
Sometimes I try to figure out why I never got teased as a kid the way fat kids do. I remember Joseph, I remember Paula, how relentless we could be, how mean we could be in that way you can be mean when you have not yet learned consequence, when you have not yet learned we each die alone.
I try to figure out why I never got teased as a kid the way fat kids do. Was it because I was funny? Was it because I had a posse (such as it was. Can you have a posse of drama nerds?) Was it because I purposely endeared myself to the bad kids? (I learned a long time ago that nothing attracts brokenness like brokenness.)
I try to figure out why I never got teased as a kid the way fats kids do and it take me far too long to remember I wasn’t fat as a kid. Or a teenager. That I boasted a flat stomach well into my junior year of college despite my worship of breakfast potatoes. Despite the fact that I spent all of my snack bar points on sundaes. Despite my devotion to Twinkies with strawberry and cream filing.
I look at photos of me at 14, at 16, as a Honeybun in South Pacific, as Sister Sarah in Guys and Dolls, in a vintage red lace dress borrowed for opening night of The Beautiful People, and I wonder how that slender girl with just a slight flare of her hips, with just enough bootie to make her distracting, with (disappointingly) small breasts–how can she be me? How can she be the fat girl? The one who frustrates her mother cause she never wants to wear the clothes her mother brings home for her? The one who never feels like enough?
No matter how many times I look at those photos, they are a shock. She is not who I carry around in my head. She is not what I remember of the past. I remember myself ugly with a body that was a problem. It takes decades for me to consider that what I learned at home was wrong. It takes me decades to realize that my parents never called me beautiful cause they just couldn’t see it. They just couldn’t see me. They still can’t. And that is a heartache.
But isn’t it also a blessing? Which is either true or just something I tell myself. Even as I point my finger in accusation, I’m still always looking for a way to let them off the hook. Which is what it means to be a daughter. Which is what it means to be a liar. Which is what makes memory such a dangerous pasttime.