Today, Allison and I are going out shopping for a new suit for me. I am taking her with me because I know she does not like to be embarrassed, so she will see to it that whatever suit we buy will not be hideous and that I will look as good as I can look on my daughter's wedding day.
I cannot buy a suit by myself, because I am emotionally malleable when it comes to my appearance. I am a blank slate. I cannot think of myself in terms of "attractive" or "good-looking", or "sexy". In fact, typing those words in association with a discussion of how I look makes me exceedingly uncomfortable to the point where I fidget and use any possible ruse to change the topic. (Even if I am the one who actually introduced the topic.)
It's not that I am particularly humble. I'm absolutely not. There are things in my life or career that I will absolutely bore you to tears bragging about, things of which I am proud to bursting and unafraid to proclaim that pride to the world.
But how I look? Not among them.
I have always considered myself homely and chunky. And for about 32 years, I carried 70 extra pounds or so. That helped in the "Who could like my looks?" department.
I've felt badly for people who - through what I cannot help but see as kindness or questionable judgment - have tried to convince me otherwise. It can be frustrating, saying nice things to someone and have them reject it at the rim as forcefully as I tend to do that. I think something in me believes that after a while, they'll stop saying it and I won't have to deal with either a crazy person or someone who feels that kind of pity for me. How screwed up is it that telling me I look good or sexy makes me feel pitied and pathetic?
Look, this is not a plea for a bunch of comments saying "No, really, you're not hideous". It's just a little essay about how I feel when I look in the mirror. Were I to look at you, I would see a different person than you see in your mirror.
That ass you keep cringing about? To me, it's perfect. Yer skinny ankles? I love 'em. That hump on your back? Well, now that you point it out I see it, but I'll never see it as clearly as you do - because you're looking at the brush strokes and I'm standing back here looking at the whole beautiful painting.
(It does not escape my attention that I am saying to you precisely what people say to me, and getting every bit as frustrated by your eyerolling, deflection, and arguing. But in your case, you're wrong about how you look and, of course, in my case, I'm right.)
So, I'll take Allie with me and we'll go to the suit store and she'll work as an antidote to the salesman who will say, with a perfectly straight face, "Yes, that looks great on you," while trying not to throw up in his mouth just a little.
And maybe when we have something and it's been tailored and I've put it on and been reassured sufficiently, I'll take a picture of myself in it. And maybe I'll put it up here. And then you can all say lovely things about how I look ...
... and make me completely miserable.
Sound like a plan?
************** UPDATE ******************
We're back, and we have found a suit. It is an elegant, subtle, grey-blue pinstripe that Allie says matches my eyes and makes me look taller. Ish.
I am a hard person to fit into a suit, because I have a sort of barrel chest and broad shoulders, with a shortish body. That's not terribly odd, but I've lost enough weight in my waist that the proportions are not quite standard. When they ask my size, I always say "44 Stumpy".
But here's the thing: the pants that go with a 44 jacket have a waist size of 38. And when you say "Can I have this, but with a 36 pant, they say "Ohhh, no, we're forbidden to do that."
Well, bite me arse. I worked hard to get down to a 34/36, and I'm not going to take 38 waist pants, because it's not just the waist that's bigger. They're looser .. everywhere. If you get my drift. And tailoring them to look perfect costs money and gets awfully picky.
So, shhhh. When the salesperson was off finding me a tie or whatever, I grabbed the pants out of a somewhat mortified Allison's hand, found an identical suit in size 42, and made a quick switch. When I tried the ensemble on, everything fit perfectly. As I walked away, Allie had to agree with the switch move.
I believe the exact words from my 21 year old daughter's mouth were: "Ohh ... those pants do wonderful things to your tushy." Then: "OK, I'm pretty sure that's inappropriate."
We'll see if I still love the suit once it's been tailored, or if my love alters when it alterations finds. But for now, I'm thinking it might look ... OK.