A strange thing happened to me this month.
I started doing product reviews on Amazon. I thought it might be fun and I like getting free stuff. The catch was, a lot of them wanted video reviews and I have had a strict no-video policy for… oh, let’s see. Twenty years?
When my friends Skype with me, it’s strictly voice only. When family videos are being filmed, guess who is always behind the camera?
I’m thirty-five, by the way. This shit has been going down since I was a teenager.
Oh, the usual reason. BECAUSE I HATE LOOKING AT MYSELF. AND GOD FORBID ANYONE ELSE EVER SEE ME, EITHER.
It’s really said because there are videos back before then, when I was a little girl, of me being a ridiculous ham. Not shy, not scared, always trying to get the camera in my face.
And then it happened.
I found out I was fat.
Oh, you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I was beautiful on my wedding day. 19 years young, a perfect size 10, feeling horrified about the thickness of my thighs and about the crude reality of my own flesh. I hated every picture. (Except that one out of ten that I LOVED and secretly looked at over and over. That’s the secret of selfies, you know. We are looking for that ONE PICTURE where we don’t hate the way we look, where we believe for a second that we might be lovable. And it’s never enough.)
Where was I? Oh, yes, self-loathing.
Two weeks ago someone that I love called me “jowls.” I hadn’t noticed, until that moment, that my full cheeks are now starting to sag down below my smile line. Now when I look in the mirror I see it. Jowls forming. I’m 35, gravity is starting to catch up with me. Oh, and then there’s another nickname – batflaps. Yes, I have large arms and rounded shoulders. I have an offensively large stomach. WORST of all I have a double chin that I hate.
But guess what? I also have pretty eyes and I get to pick what to do with my thick hair. I have good teeth and a heart that somehow resisted getting bitter so that I can still smile beautifully.
A few years ago I decided I needed pink hair. Colorful hair is getting popular now but at the time, I didn’t know anybody who has pink hair at all. So it was crazy but my husband was into it and I decided to go for it. It was, in some ways, the first step to me taking back ownership of who I am. But I still couldn’t look at myself.
And then I started doing video reviews. I didn’t care because they are just going out to total strangers and I got to try free stuff in exchange so no big deal, right? And then I watched a few of them. And I looked so lame. You could totally see my floppy double chin. And the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing. And my round shoulders. But I didn’t care. Why should I? My husband loves me, my kids love me, I have excellent friendships. I do work that I love.
So as of right now, the ban of images is lifted. The video-loving Rachel has been reinstated. Oh, it is going to take time before I don’t stress about it. But I’ve begun to forgive myself for my mistakes and to maybe appreciate who I am. I guess that’s what happens when you are 35. Things start to pass. Even your lifelong hatred for jazz. Even the heartache of the boy in high school that broke yourself. Even the loathing of brussel sprouts. Even hating yourself.
Okay, maybe not the brussel sprouts thing.
Post Script 1
When I started looking at myself again, I realized my self-esteem would be better if I took better care of my very average skin. So I’m shopping for a cleanser now. Don’t be surprised if I start reviewing some.
Post Script 2
During the writing of this post, I ran into this adorable ad and was also called bat flaps again. The enemy is all around me.