Two years ago, I began to notice a slight change in my face. At first, I thought it was just weight gain, that my face was fatter, soon I’d surely see a double chin. It was alarming as hell. Thoughts like, was this it? was I on my way to old-age so soon and so visibly?, stained my mind. I tried to convince myself it was indeed weight gain and set out to get healthy–lose weight, get a strong, muscular, lean body, and the skinny face would obviously follow. Well…I did lose some weight and while I got more confident, I noticed that from certain angles, my face was still different and I didn’t know what to blame for this seemingly permanent change.
Then one day during a Pilates reformer class, I mentioned my fatter face to my teacher in passing, she said, “well maybe it’s looking more grown-up, and not fat. You’re so used to seeing a younger version of your face and now it’s settling into an adult woman’s face instead of a young girl’s.” This sat with me heavy. Each time I looked at myself in the mirror, I began to remind myself that I’m grown up now–no more teenage face for me. It felt good, I was starting to accept the new change and even like it.
Until a week ago.
A family member, male, said, “you got fat.” To my face. My little niece happened to be nearby or I would have responded with more than “eh, I’m wearing looser clothes” to which he pushed, “no even your face got fat.” I silently turned back to my niece, hurt, embarrassed, mad at myself for not standing up to him. All the way home that night, I berated myself for not having control over my hunger, over not being able to lose weight, over gaining a little bit of weight. It is so easy for me to fall back into this unrealistic pool in which I drown in angry thoughts of insecurities and imperfection set by others’ beliefs. None of this by the way is actually my standard! If a friend of mine had repeated this same story to me, I would say to her, fuck him and all the people who make us believe we have to look at certain way no matter what is happening in our lives.
So, the next morning, I set out to remind myself of my principles about my body and face. Here is what I wrote: my body is constantly shifting, never stagnant and I like it that way. I like that when I get hungry, I choose food that makes my body and mind happy. Sometimes this means a bacon cheeseburger and other times it means quinoa and spinach daal. I am insanely confident, feel pretty and am healthy most of the time, but I am 37 and 5 feet so the odds right now are a little against me. I could, A. become a super clean, low carb vegan or B. become a hardcore gym-rat who lifts and runs all the time, or C. continue to do what I’m doing and let go of the laughable standards that I, even at 37, am supposed to live up to. On any given day, I choose A, B, or C, but am learning that C is what I want to live by, C is my heart.
My face has seen many things in her life time from domestic abuse to the glossy eyes of my husband declaring his vows to her, from Hyderabadi biryani to the best almond croissant in the world, from the concrete streets of New York to the lonely seaside of Hawaii at sunrise.
And I guess fat or not, old or not, I know one thing: other people see what they see when they look at me and I choose to see all that I’ve had the privilege of living through.