“My calves are huge,” Leslie, who wears a size 4, said as she shimmied her foot into a tall boot.
“Oh yeah, they’re fucking enormous,” I responded from another corner of the cramped balcony housing the sale shoes. “Like, I don’t know how you lumber around with those things.”
I tossed a pair of purple, patent, Tory Burch pumps back in the box and collapsed on a velvet armchair shoved under a dormer.
Leslie continued to rifle through the shoes. She modeled a Marc Jacobs bootie. She pondered a Christian Lacroix skimmer. I oohed and ahhed at the options. But mostly I tried to hush the mumbling in my head.
“Every woman hates her thighs,” a friend once said when I confessed the way I dislike my appearance.
“Right, but I think about it all the time.”
“So do I,” she said.
We both fell silent and returned our attention to our cups of artisan gelato, the tiny plastic shovel-spoons, and the joint confession hovering above it all.
I don’t want to sound crazy, or argue that my shit is worse than yours, but I totally hear voices in my head. It’s like background music that I can’t turn off, though I do try to ignore it. Except blocking it out takes more effort than just letting it play on a continuous loop. My old therapist referred to the voices as a soundtrack.
“If someone repeatedly told a child she’ll never play a violin, what’s the likelihood that kid will ever believe she can?”
In my head I started wishing I had been told I’d never be able to play a violin. That’s a false failure I’d be happy to live with. Standing in the fitting room at Saks, naked from the waist down as I accept the reality that I’m not built for skinny anything, an inability to play the violin wouldn’t stare back at me, taunting and laughing through the haze of poor lighting.
Last week, a full four months after my old gym membership lapsed, I walked into the new LA Fitness around the corner and signed on the dotted line.
“Do you have a special occasion coming up that you want to get into shape for?” a trainer asked from the other side of the desk.
“Like, a wedding or high school reunion? Something in the near future.”
I’m all for honesty but I knew this wasn’t the venue to announce, “I’m trying to hate my appearance a little less.” So I just sat there quietly thinking, dude, how can you be two feet away from me and not see what I see?
After a few seconds he smiled. Not in that oh-now-I-get-what-you’re-talking-about kind of way. But a warm friendly smile that, for a brief moment, silenced the voices in my head. I smiled back, exhaling at the same time. And then he kicked my ass all over the gym.