I’m scanning pictures tonight. My mom pays me to do this, to sort, organize, and scan boxes of photographs from our family’s history. I’ve seen myself in all sorts of stages and looks. I’ve always thought of myself as a chubby girl, but looking back, I really wasn’t that bad. And then-I came across this photo.
I was struck-am still struck, by something lovely in this girl who used to be me. I don’t know if I can explain it because if I look at this picture objectively, it’s a picture of a girl in pajamas with glasses and bedhead whose left eye is doing something strange and whose arms could benefit from an introduction to handweights. But there’s something inexplicable about this girl that makes me want to cry for no reason. Not because looking at this picture from seven years ago makes me nostalgic for freedom and college and possibility. Just because.
In this picture, it’s Christmas morning, 2001. I’m in Florida, because that’s where we spend Christmas every now and then. I think at this point we all knew my grandfather was fading, but I don’t think any of us were acknowledging it yet. My cousin’s girlfriend kept dropping hints about how she really should become his fiancee soon, and I spent my days readingreadingreading. My aunt-who was one of my best friends at the time-put red highlights in my hair. On this Christmas morning, I was 21. I think I weighed around 115. My jeans were a size 4 on a normal day, a size 2 on a good day.
And I remember a good day, a good evening, really, when I walked into the bar at TGI Fridays wearing those size 2 jeans and a blue? grey? turtleneck, and my friend’s friend told me that I looked great. I remember smiling, and thanking her, and knowing that what she said was true. I did look great. I don’t think it was the size 2 that made that girl, that version of me look great. I think it was the knowing that made me look great, the knowing that I was fine just the way I was, the not stressing over my weight or even thinking about it really. I think it was the confidence to smile and accept a compliment without somehow excusing it. And I think that’s what I miss, that’s what I long for, even more than I long for the size 2 jeans.