Full Moon: Reflections on Turning Fifty
When I was twenty I was a slender woman. At five feet six and one-half inches tall, I weighed one-thirty, give or take five pounds. When I was about thirty, I took some of my clothes to a rummage sale. A friend and I were straightening the tables and she picked up a mini-dress, a slim hank of white cloth with spaghetti straps. "Who do you suppose wore this tiny thing?" she mused. I looked at it. It was tiny. Straight lined, no flares, no pleats, no elastic waist.
"I did," I said. She looked at me, and we both looked at the gown she had draped admiringly over her arm. I weighed one fifty or sixty by then and had given up dresses in favor of slacks, and waistlines in favor of flowing tops.
"You were thin," she said.
"Oh, I don't think so," I answered. "I've never been thin."
"Look at it," she said, holding it up. I looked at it, then she put the dress back on the table. We continued silently at our task, but I kept thinking about that wisp of a garment. I really was thin once, and I didn't know it. I weighed a scant one hundred and thirty pounds, and I thought I was fat. I worried about eating my eating. I felt guilty when I ate jelly donuts. I once ate half a dozen so I could throw away the package and no one would know I had eaten three.
As I sorted through other people's clothes, I tried to blame my self-deception on everyone, anyone else. Twiggy. Family who said "You're having another?" My parents' friends who said "You're just large boned" when I weighed one-thirty but was not yet five-six and a half feet tall. But I was the one who listened, and didn't listen. I remembered store clerks who said "You look wonderful," and my obstetrician who tried to tell me I was not fat.
I had an epiphany at that rummage sale: I had been thin once, and I missed it. I began to wonder what else I had missed, and then to wonder what I was currently missing. I could hear myself saying, in response to a compliment, "Oh, you're just saying that," or thinking to myself, "Oh, yea, fat chance."
Fat chance. I decided then to not miss another minute of my own life. Gradually I learned to say "thank you" when someone complimented me and, when I doubted them, to stop and consider that they might be right.
And this year I am offering myself a special challenge: to enjoy my body the way it is; to let go of the way it could be, or should be, and to revel in this ship that carries my soul so ably about the earth.
I weigh one hundred and seventy-eight pounds. I work out, and have discovered classy clothes catalogs for "large boned women," so some people don't believe it. "You don't look it," they say, the way they say "You don't look fifty years old." And they mean it. But I want to say to them and to myself, "Yes, I do look it. This is what one-seventy-eight looks like. And this is what fifty years old looks like."
Recently I have taken to standing nude in front of the mirror. "Look at that belly," I say to myself. "That is the belly of a woman who has borne two children and who loves good bread. Look at the curves of those hips, and the heft of those breasts. That is the flesh of a woman who has lived for half of a century."
The woman in the mirror straightens her shoulders, not missing a thing.