Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm Not Like This

"I wasn't always like this." Thus spake Gilbert's mother in the great 90's classic What's Eating Gilbert Grape. The scene, should your memory need a refresher, was the one in which Gilbert Grape - a young broody Johnny Depp - introduces his new girlfriend - a young and gloriously weird Juliette Lewis - to his morbidly obese mother. In what is perhaps one of my favorite movie scenes ever, Miss Lewis' character - young, slender, offbeat and sweet - responds, "Well, I wasn't always like this, either."

I love that scene.

None of us 'was always' as we are now.

I had a clear flashback this morning to an incident - a moment, really - that took place some twenty-five years ago in a bar. On this particular night, the bar had exotic dancers early, then just became a regular dance club later. My friend and I arrived just as the 'entertainment' portion of the evening was wrapping up. I went to the ladies' room and one of the dancers was in there changing into her street clothes. She had changed into jeans and sneakers and was throwing a flannel shirt over breasts still adorned with pasties when I walked in. She turned to hide herself, ashamed of the nakedness we both knew she'd been flaunting moments earlier on the stage. As she pulled her hair into a ponytail she looked at me for the first time. Her look conveyed, more clearly than any words ever could have, "I'm not always like this."

I spend a lot of time trying to convince people I'm not what my appearance conveys.

I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself I'm not what my appearance conveys.

When I was in college, I had a serious boyfriend. We dated for four years. After the third year, we got engaged. His mother was against it - not because of our tender age, but because (and I quote - because you don't quickly forget being told something like this) "we might date people like that, but we don't marry them." At the time I thought she must be referring to religious differences because, superficially, that was all I could see. We had the same socio-economic status. Our education levels were identical. Yes, I told myself, it's the religion thing. That explanation worked for me until he married a girl a year or two later - with his mother's full blessing - who shared my religious background. Something else, then. But what?

Je ne sais quoi. Something. Some thing defines class, culture, breeding. It isn't money alone, although money helps. We all know (or know of) people with plenty of money and no class. Perhaps we also know people with no money and miles of class. So money isn't the single defining characteristic.

I look in the mirror and see a heavy middle-aged woman with a stringy non-hairdo and bad clothes. I see the sort of woman who could incite ridicule and judgment based entirely upon her appearance. I see a woman who doesn't go to Walmart - ostensibly for politically valid reasons, but also, just a little bit, because she's afraid if she goes to Walmart looking like she does, it will only be a matter of time before she is immortalized as a 'People of..."

I tell myself I'm not that woman. Clearly I don't think I am - I used the third person to describe 'her'. That's not me - that's someone else. Someone who, from time to time, shows up in pictures next to my husband and kids.

And sometimes I think I'd just be happier if I stopped fighting it. March - or waddle - into Walmart, buy myself an oversized Tweety T-shirt, some leggings, and a pack of Marlboro's and call a spade a spade.

Now. As I am not as stupid as I might look, I can almost hear you saying, "Get over yourself! Get yourself a nice haircut and some nice clothes and - while you're at it - get yourself some exercise! Hair, clothes and weight are issues we have some control over!" True words, to an extent. Money does make a difference with the clothes and - in my case - the hair. As for the weight - ugh - I don't feel like rehashing all of that. It all sounds like rationalizing - even to me - but it is a hard truth. Dieting and exercise have failed me miserably and completely. I have wasted enough of my life being obsessed with them.


Do I deny my reality, like the stripper, or try to explain it away, like Gilbert's mother? I've tried each of those tactics and have been wildly unsuccessful with both. Obviously acceptance is the key. But how can I accept something that feels so false?

Today is my adoption day. Maybe that's why I'm so obsessed - today - with figuring out who I am. What is nature and what is nurture and what just is?

Do you guys need me to continue my blogging hiatus until I'm in a better mood?


Unknown said...

Oh my gosh Tammy, sitting here crying for you, for me, for all of us who scream, I haven't always been like this!!!
Trust me.........I'm so there. I am not like that person who yesterday bawled like a baby to her Dr about feeling so depressed, about not wanting to sometimes leave her home and that the depression is a vicious cycle where by my weight is a problem but she eats every emotion she has....happy, sad, angry etc...Who was this woman? Not me, I haven't always felt like this.
In some ways, we do each have to pick ourselves up, but not alone, sometimes we need help, I pray to God I'm getting my help, and yes it is in the form of some meds to get the balance back in my chemicals and to help me........
I do not want to continue to feel this way.
I do not want you to hiatus, I've needed you......craved your words, your sharing, all of it.
So TMI? Love you!!!

M said...

This is such an interesting post, Tammy. It's so true that sometimes it's hard to reconcile what you see in the mirror with what you feel on the inside, which is why I truly believe that so many women "let themselves go" as they get older. I can't believe I even said that! What is so terrible about sacrificing your body to the all-too-important task of birthing and raising children?! I think it's a sad society that doesn't praise and revere every bump on a mother's body...and it's a shame that we live in that society. I think in the end what matters is being healthy and happy. A few extra pounds floating around the midsection never hurt anyone, right?! If it's a matter of physical health, then do the exercise and so forth, but if it's just a matter of psychological issues that have been brought on by this ridiculous skinny-obsessed culture, let it go. That's what I say. You're beautiful no matter what, just like all the rest of us.
M :)

Unknown said...

Sitting here I wondered how exactly you got in my head. Then I realized it is the thoughts of many women our age. But I have learned some simple truths here lately. I have to feel WORTH losing the weight, if I don't feel it I will never do it for anyone else. I have to begin to believe what God calls me to be. Anointed, blessed to be a blessing, beautiful, wonderfully made in His Image, the daughter of the God most High, Daughter to the king of kings which makes me a princess and more valuable then the rarest rubies ever found. I am a gift from God as well as TO GOD and how awesome is that??

Mama-Face said...

I just wrote a comment and deleted it because it was turning into a post about me.

I know you will touch a lot of people with this post. I want to scream at the top of my lungs that I am NOT the person I'm perceived to be. I'm not even sure I am really true to myself in my blog. My son mentioned asked me about that yesterday actually.

Oh gosh, I wish I could talk to you in person!!

I thought by now I'd finally be comfortable in my own skin. Ha. It's probably even worse now; because when I look in the mirror or see a picture of myself I am shocked. That is definitely not how I feel inside. I've always marched to the beat of a different drummer; and now I feel trapped in this outer shell of a different person.

See, I can't stop talking about myself. I think that's because I feel like you are talking directly to me.

I can't even tell you how highly I think of you and your uniqueness as a person. I'm lumping all the wonderful qualities I see in you in the word unique; cuz I know that word can be taken in a different connotation.

I even had a similar experience with a boy I dated who was the son of my boss. I won't go into that here (cuz I am already over my limit!) but let's just say I wasn't good enough for him.

I want you feel comfortable posting no matter what your mood. I love your honesty. The line "I've wasted my life with being obsessed with them"...I could insert many "thems".

I need to shut up. I hope you have a good adoption day. I love you.

Gibby said...

I recently have seen a few photos where I have done a double-take wondering who that chick with the double chins is. Oh, it's me. I keep saying tomorrow I will wake up early and work out. Tomorrow, tomorrow.

I am not one to give advice on this, but what I can say is that there are so many people who love and accept you for who you are. I think we all should learn to accept ourselves, but also accepting the fact that maybe we need to change a few things, too, BECAUSE we love ourselves. "Damn I love myself but crap, do I need to do something about those chins!"

One more thing: if I saw you in Walmart wearing a Tweetie shirt, I would still want to go drink some tequila with you. And then when I got really drunk, I would sloppily tell you what I really think of that shirt, LOL!!


Chin up, that big fat ass who wears the red suit is just around the corner. (Hey, I bet he's fine with how he looks. WTF?)

Badass Geek said...

Regardless of how you may feel about yourself, there are many people out there who would be missing something great in their lives if you weren't in it.

Myself included.

Anonymous said...

So I'm out of my sickness stupor and thought I'd come check on glad I did as you are having an identity crisis of the worst sort. Can I say I'm right there with you? And trying to let go of my self-esteem demons? Working out and eating healthy would make you feel better...and then at least you can say to yourself, I'm eating healthy and working out and I am what I am...I know it's hard. I am so sorry you're in this slump. I hate slumps. Remember though, we all love you for you!!

Jenn said...

You know...I often say "I wasn't always like this." Lately I have been letting people bully me around, whereas before I would stand up for myself. I thought about it a little more and I am coming to realize I didn't stand up for myself...I was the bully. I don't love who I am now, but things weren't perfect before either. I like that I am now more quiet as I am able to listen to other's opinions and learn a bit, but perhaps I need to find the happy medium.
I guess what I am trying to say is that you may not have always been like how you are now, but there has to be some pretty friggin awesome things about you now that weren't there before. I know it won't cure the blues, but sometimes I think it helps to be reminded.

Mammatalk said...

Very well written, thought provoking post.

Well, whoever you are, I sure as Heck like ya!

Unknown said...

Your post and the comments show me that you're not alone, Tammy! I, too, wasn't always like this. You've seen my picture on my posts. I'm 5 feet tall and wear a size 26. I hate that about me. I'm 65 years old; time is getting short for me to make changes. It's time to accept ourselves, and love ourselves for the wonderful qualities we have!

Mandy said...

Really? That's how you see yourself? I'm a little sad right now. Because I've seen a few photos of you and here's what I think.... "Tammy's got great hair. I wish I had that thick, dark hair. She has a spark in her smile and the wit to match it. I also think that she's a great writer, a great mom, a loving wife, a Bon Jovi fan, a wonderful story-teller, a knitter, a creative soul and so many more things that I have yet to discover...." That's what I see!

I hope that you can find a way to see yourself in a more positive light. We are our own worst critics. Tammy, even the thinnest women out there don't like something about themselves. As women, we are compared to standards that just aren't attainable for us average, suburban folks. But you do need to be happy and accepting of yourself. Ask your family (husband, girls) what they see when they look of you. You may be surprised at how much they love you and adore you for not just the way you look but for all those things you do that you left out in your post.

I wish I could talk to you right now (like for real, on the phone) because I'm full motivational speech mode right now. :-) But really, I think you're awesome. So go out and do something that makes you feel awesome again! Or spend time with someone who will tell you how awesome you are, even if you don't yet see that about yourself.

Hugs! And happy adoption day! You are Tammy. That's who you are. Look around you - the life you've made. You have so much! :-)

Rosa said...

NO! Don't take a break just b/c you're not in a happy, chipper mood. Nobody's always happy and upbeat. If they are, then there's probably psychotropic meds involved. The person who writes this blog is a REAL woman w/ real issues, just like the rest of us. It's all a part of the package. Does writing help you to get it out and make any sense of your thoughts? If putting it on paper, as it were, has some benefit for you, then you should not stop. And I think from the comments listed, you can tell that your readers all appreciate your candor and honesty, also. Happy Adoption Day! Thank heavens for Nancy and Tut, who brought you exactly where you are today, which is right where you were meant to be.

Unknown said...

God bless you for your candor! Although sometimes it may be difficult to see beneath the negative adjectives that clutter our brains, you are a beautiful lady! I ditto what the previous commenter stated about the sparkle in your eye and you have a lovely face to boot. I like to say that I've EARNED every single wrinkle, gray hair and bulge on this body of mine. They're my badges of honor.

Take care Tammy! As you can see the bloggy love is flowing your way today!

Cassie said...

No please continue as your posts like this really hit a nerve with me and somehow through your words I am able to express the feelings that I have. You are much more eloquent and way better with grammar and spelling than I could ever hope to be. I read your posts and think if I could write like that, really write how awesome that would be. So please keep writing and giving words to your/my feelings in such a beautiful way.
I too am trying to find the real me buried in all the "labels" and "ideal" of what a person my age should be, look like, behave like. Sometimes even pushing aside things that make me happy because they don't fit the mold I have in my head for who I should be, or at the very least who I think I should want to be.
And now that I have filled up your whole comment section I will shut the hell up :o)
One last thing a friend of mine posted this on her FB page today seems to go with the topic
so I went to the elementary school for my daughters Christmas party. One of the super nice moms told the kids that they shouldn't look at me because I was "disturbing". Too many tattoos and piercings apparently makes children fearful. And this from a group of women wearing Christmas sweaters and the same hairdo.

Traci said...

I just want to hug you. I won't tell you that you can't feel that way because we all have our hang-ups and it doesn't matter how many people don't see you that way if you do, it is real to you.
All I can say is this, you are one of the brightest, funniest, and kindest person I have met in my blogging travels. You are one classy lady to me and I would share a drink with you in your paper-bag waist pants, a Tweety shirt and leggings, or whatever floats your boat that day.
We all have our crap-tacular days and I am quite capable of wrapping myself in a very thick yet quite worn blanket of insecurity. Just know that you are not alone. I miss you when you are away but you should do what you need to do. We'll be here when you get back.

Macey said...

Beautiful post, Tammy. I am you. Seriously. People would never know that I'm actually super cool. Cuz I look like a grumpy old lady.

Mike said...

Bloggers do not need to be in a good mood to blog! You do not need a hiatus.

The problem that you have is the same problem that I have. You are walking the line between, "Ahh, fuck it, I'm in my 40's, who do I need to impress? I am happier eating and being heavy than starving and being thin" and, "40's is still young. Pro sports players are still playing at 40. Wouldn't it be nice to have some young person look at me and think that I was nice looking?"

Any goal that you have is attainable. Just taking the steps is the hard part.

BONNIE K said...

I'm with Mandy, so I won't take up the space to repeat what she said. And sometimes the down moods are what make the best posts.

dkWells said...

I always do my best writing...I mean "real" writing like my songs, poetry and journal entries that no one will ever see..when "I'm Down"!

There is a great beauty and wisdom in "Brokenness"! The shell that we encase our true self cracks and a flood comes pouring out!

Nobody is who they appear to be...really. So in your honesty you have shown us all what it means to be an original.

You're a great writer and thank you for sharing...keep the blogs coming...and I look forward to seeing you an Tom in January.

Merry CHRISTmas!
Sir Hook of Warrick...who is really a graying, slightly overweight, jolly dirty ole man named David Wells.

Claudya Martinez said...

Please remember that you are not only what you see, but also what I see. You are beautiful. I'm not just saying that I've seen what you look like and you are beautiful.

Pam said...

Tammy it's taken me an entire day to think about how to respond to this post. And, truthfully, I'm still at a loss. I think you are right that acceptance is the key, but how to get there when it feels so false? That's a tough one. I will say this - regardless of what you look like on the outside, you are an intelligent, eloquent, wise and compassionate person. Someone I look forward to "hearing from" every day. Someone I wish I knew in real life. You are exactly the kind of person I want to be friends with and spend time with. No matter what you look like on the outside. {{hugs}}

Allyson said...

I know that this is probably not the best time (after reading your most recent post) but I gave you a little award on my blog for being one of the top 10 blogs that make me so happy to read. The only rule is to re-post with your own top 10 things that make you happy. not what you want to do right now...but just know that it's there if you're interested. I truly hope that you keep blogging, even though the darkness. Because really, life is not all roses and ribbons and to only blog that way is not authentic - and who wants to read that??

Carma Sez said...

I got misty eyed the other day when upset over something and the person (who I find very intimidating) said I looked like a little wounded bird. And maybe I am; maybe we all are....

Hope you can find the ray of sunshine you are hoping to find. And please send some my way, too :D

Take Care bloggy buddy! mwah!

Tracie said...

1. What Mandy said.
2. Me too. More or less. Except I think I've always been this way.

Stick around even if you're grouchy. I think you are talented, funny, smart, and an all-around great gal.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hey Tammy, I'm catching up after being away for a few days and WOW-- What a post. If I didn't know you'd written it I would have NEVER guessed it was you!

I'm sorry you're feeling blue-- This time of the year does that for a lot of us, but know that I've never seen the person you described. I see a very cool woman with a bright smile, beautiful hair, a fab sense of humor, great writing skill and a strong sense of family.

I don't want to minimize how you are feeling because I can totally, relate. So all I'll suggest is taking it one day at a time and finding something each day to feel good about-- That or drugs. I take drugs and go to therapy too. It helps as I sort through my life trying to figure out who I am.

But don't stop blogging. As they say, "it takes a village" and we're your people!


La Mere Joie said...

I am right there with you! In my head I am still 30 and I can still do cartwheels. In reality I am 30lbs overwheight, my hair is greying and nothing in my pre baby closet fits. And I gave up a big salary to be at home. I wasn't always like this.

But I do know that I'm wiser than was at 30. I know more of the real things that make a difference- not the superficial things that don't really matter anyway.

And I also know that you are an amazing person with great insides. That's what really matters!

Sending you a big hug!

MaryRC said...

my hiatus missed your bad mood. youre a bad ass no matter your appearance but finding our happy place is like finding Atlantis. trust me baby im around pretty people with money all the time and they are far more effed up than you and i put together. no thanks, case in point. recently deceased B.M., ya met her and all she did for 2 days was consume mountain dew, rock stars and vomit 4 times a day, not surprised her heart gave out. but she was damn purdy!

Sandy said...

Hey girl, you know I've been away and missed this post when it came out. There's not much I can add to the many comments you have received from people who know and care about you.

I can identify with much of what you wrote. My standard line is the only good thing about getting older is that I no longer give a shit what people think of what I look like. I still try but if I don't get it quite right, too bad.

You sound like you have a great marriage and a wonderful family. And I'm sure they love you lots. What else do you need to know?

And stay away from mirrors if they upset you! :-) It truly is what's on the inside that counts.

Sandy said...

And Happy Adoption Day. What an amazing thing to celebrate!

Sandy said...

Kind of interesting that I was the last commenters when this was first posted and I am the first today.

There is nothing of substance (there's that word again) that I can add. There's a book out there that I have not read but the title of which says volumes...."All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." One thing we all were supposed to learn was to never judge a book by its cover. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with your cover but somehow it seems to fit the mood you were in when you wrote this post.

Cheryl said...

I have learned that the outside stuff is nowhere near as important as the inside stuff. Thanks for sharing the inside stuff.

MissKris said...

Oh my, I'm working my way thru your highlighted posts I am finding so much blogging fodder to work with, lol! This comment may end up being entry-length.

I have and always will be the 'weirdo'. The one who never fit in. I have an extremely high IQ - 2 points higher than our President's - and that in itself has been enough to make me the oddball-out. I struggled with it for years. And then, in 1999, I had kind of a "Life Crash"...spiritually, emotionally, physically...not a breakdown, per se, but a stop-in-my-tracks-and-rethink-my-life kind of crisis. It took that year to figure it out. And I came to the conclusion I'm not going to struggle any more to be someone I'm NOT, just to 'fit in' because I never did. I always went to the beat of my own drummer. I refer to it on my blog as my "epiphany year". And, 11 years later, as Popeye would say, "I yam what I yam, that's what I yam". No apologies. And I am happier now within myself than I've ever been. I'm a good person, and if people meet me and don't like me, that's THEIR problem.

Oh, this was such a GOOD post!

Anonymous said...

wonderful post! I can certainly relate as will a lot of people.

Anonymous said...


I thought it was just me.

I know EXACTLY how it feels, I feel that way too. I have felt that way for many years now. I often find myself wondering just why my husband loves me, what does he find attractive about me, why would he want me over someone else.

I don't know what to say, but I do know how to hug. I wish I could just hug you right now.

~Kristen~ said...

I don't think I can even begin to adequately put in to words how I feel after reading this post. I think you summed up feelings that too many of us feel all too often.

Crone and Bear It said...

I wish you were my next door neighbor. I feel after reading this post that we might have been separated at birth. Okay maybe not coz, crap on a crutch, I'm older than you. I'm older than dirt...but that's for another day. The good news sweetie, there comes a day when you wake up and look in the mirror and say to the mirror - Dang - I'm so glad I woke up on the right side of the grass today. And the weight no longer matters and that saggy neck (only on me) doesn't become so prevalent, and the realization that there are people in your life who do indeed love and accept you for yourself starts to sink in. Unfortunately it seems to take us far too many years to get to this point. You are a very gifted writer - never quit blogging or I will hunt you down and duct-tape your fingers to a keyboard. Hugs and blessings

WhiteSockGirl aka The Fabulous Bitch said...

Maybe I should just cut and paste from my previous comments, cause what else can I say then? GREAT GREAT POST.
Damn, damn, you are so good.
I can say a lot, type a lot, but none of it would do justice to your absolute WOW post.

Ronnica said...

I'm "hmmm"ing over this post...don't have anything to say (yet) but I'm thinking about it.

Rachel Cotterill said...

So I've known you for all of five minutes now... that qualifies me to give advice, doesn't it? ;) Don't give up on the exercise, even if it's just short walks. Don't do it for weight loss, do it for staying healthy. (I'm trying really hard to do this at the moment, so it's not a suggestion out of a vacuum, it's what I'm trying to live by....)

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Look how you have reached people with your post. Wow. I don't know how you are feeling right now, but I hope you are appreciating yourself and the support you have earned with your insightful and honest writing.

Lora said...

wow. you've put words to what so many of us (clearly!) are feeling.

Alexandra said...

Oh, my goodness. Just look at the average length of your comments. People are hungry for this. Just look at how much they have to say.

Excellent writing, excellent.

Thank you. What a concept. I feel that way often, but couldn't figure out what it was, but that's it: "I wasn't always like this."