When I was newly married at the unripe age of 21, Ryan and I went with my family to Hawaii. We were at a restaurant one evening, and the waiter asked if we wanted kids menus. It was a feasible question–my three siblings were not even teenagers at the time–but then I noticed where his gaze rested. On me. Nice. (Cue the “if looks could kill” look.)
Looking at my frame and my face, nearly everyone I meet for the first time thinks I’m still in high school. (I’m 26, so they’re way off, but I guess my 5’4″, size 0 frame fools them.)
Case in point: on our first night in Saint-Jean, Cat, Jan’s sister-in-law, was floored by the revelation of my age. “I thought for sure you were 19!” she said, her eyes wide. Nope, but I might as well be.
Don’t get me wrong; I like being small. I like that Ryan can pick me up easily. I like that I don’t take up much space at any given time. I like that my clothes roll up small, so I can cram a large(r) variety into my travel backpack. And maybe it’s easier for me to go through life this way–I don’t have as much ME to carry around on a daily basis.
The trouble is, it’s hard to take myself seriously when no one else, at first glance, does. I look like a young and ignorant soul–and maybe I am, but I don’t want to appear that way to people before I even open my mouth.
That first impression is actually the primary reason I’m nervous about going out to crowded places on my own (as silly as it may be). I can’t shake this fear that someone will pinpoint me as a good person to steal, and then I’ll never find my way home again. I’m strong for my size, but I’m still very light and would be overpowered pretty easily. The last thing I want is for my face to appear on a poster that reads “Have you seen this missing
Well, and then there’s the clothes situation. Ever since I started running regularly, clothes seem to expand at an alarming rate. (Hmm, maybe not anymore… Europe has evened out the playing field a bit.)
I’ve come to anticipate my conversations with Ryan when I try things on at the mall. “You are drowning! Do you want me to get you a smaller size?”
“Well…there is no smaller size at this store.”
“Oh. Really? Um, maybe we should look in the kids section?”
I’ve actually done that before. I was in Sports Authority buying a fleece jacket for our Europe trip, but they didn’t have the size I needed. I talked to the person at the counter, who called another store to see if they had the size in stock.
“What size do you need?” she asked, straining her eyes toward me while smashing the phone awkwardly between her cheekbone and shoulder.
“A large,” I told her. “But not an adult large. I need a child large.”
“A child large…?”
“Yes. The jacket you are holding is a boy’s medium. The sleeves are a bit too short, so I need the large.”
The whole time I was thinking, “Look at me, lady. Do you honestly think an adult large would fit me?” Needless to say, I didn’t get the jacket.
If you are thinking, “Well, you’ll be so grateful when you’re older,” just can it, okay? I’m sure I’ll be grateful. My mom seems to be; she looks really young, too, and people always ask her if she is my sister. But how long do I have to wait until the tide turns–until I can feel normal? My 30s? My 40s?
I’m not too stiff of a person to have a good laugh about it–and my family thinks it is just hilarious, so I can laugh about it often–but it does tweak my nerves just a bit.
I feel like my facial expressions and body language make me an open book anyway. It seems like as hard as I try, I can’t keep most of me–my thoughts, my emotions–to myself without unconsciously revealing all. Is there any part of me that can just be mine, without inviting the rest of the world in as well?
There is one thing I can do about my (albeit minimal) size issues. When we’re settled somewhere, I want to take self-defense classes, so I can at least do away with any fears of assault. Then I can kick the bad guys’ butts when they come to take me away, even if the only thought going through their minds while I round-house-kick them in the neck is “Damn, this girl has skills!”