He was someone I knew briefly in grammar school, a friend of my brother’s. I remembered him as a nice guy with a kind smile. He was working out on a treadmill, wiping the sweat from his shiny forehead with a towel, as he chatted with a friend who jogged beside him. I stopped to say, “hello and good to see you,” on my way to “Long and Lean,” an exercise class with very noble aspirations. He gave me a big smile, and as a gentleman should, he introduced me to his friend, explaining that we had known each other from a very long time ago.
After the niceties, there was a bit of an awkward silence. Breathless, and apparently light-headed, he felt the need to fill the silence. He should have just grabbed a sip of his water and shut up.
“You know,” he said to his friend, “she was the hottest girl when she was younger.”
I turned to see if he was perhaps referring to someone else, perhaps a cute brunette with a tight ass in shorts about to climb aboard a stair master, but no one else was around. He was absolutely, positively referring to me.
“You must be thinking of someone else,” I replied, pretending false modesty, “so nice to see you.” And I walked off to class shaking my head, a little self-conscious about my not very Long or Lean tuchas, exposed in my workout pants, with my middle-aged bra bulge peeking out from under my Lululemon top.
My reply might have come off as false modesty (“who me?”), but it was nothing of the sort. False modesty, my ass. False modesty…I wish. The vision of me in 8th grade came swooping in, filling my brain.
The fact is, he must have actually had me confused with someone else. Either that, or he was 1. a really, really mean sarcastic jerk; 2. blind in 8th grade, or 3. prematurely senile. I hoped to god he was just confused.
Because I was about as far from “hot” as a preteen girl can get. I was fat, pimply, and had braces and glasses. We have pictures to prove it, pictures that are proudly displayed by my mother in her den; my wall of shame. Every one of my relatives, including my husband and children, give me grief about those pictures. Comments like: “There’s Ronna on an elephant…can you tell which one is the elephant?” “Looking good there honey!” “Oh, mom, that is so sad….”
By the time I laid down on my mat for my pre-class stretches, I was that little fat girl again- incredible, after 40 years of not being that fat girl. I couldn’t help but think, “Was he being sarcastic? Could a middle-aged guy be that mean?” And even if he were just simply mistaken by who I was then, the full realization of what he just said started to enrage me.
“When I was YOUNGER, I was hot?” Well, even if this were a case of mistaken identity, what was he saying about me NOW? I imagined the view he had of my behind as I walked to class. Was he thinking, “Too bad what happened to her….she used to be soooooo hot!”
I wanted to run into the men’s locker room screaming, “And what happened to your HAIR buddy…if I remember correctly, you used to have some!”
Well, that was it… my day was ruined. One stupid comment from a nice guy trying to be friendly ruined my day and brought the fat girl out that stays hidden 99.9% of the time.
I told my husband this story a few days ago.
“Maybe he actually thought you were hot then.”
“Mike, you’ve seen the pictures on my mother’s wall.”
“Yeah, you’re right. There is no way he thought you were hot… But I wasn’t hot then either. Who cares?”
And that is what love does- it tames the insecurities, at least for a while.