Words by Kathryn Monsewicz
If you’ve ever thrown on layers of clothes for the sole purpose of hiding from the world, you’re not alone.
Slip into a pair of baggy sweatpants, pull on a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a jacket, wrap a scarf around your neck, and make sure your hood is up and covering your face so much you can barely fit a straw through the breathing hole.
“I don’t want to human today,” someone once told me.
And I actually understand what he meant.
Being human is what this blog is all about. But some days, just existing in a world with other humans who are trying to exist can be exhausting. It’s almost as if we are all in this endless triathlon with some of us swimming through mud, others running on air, and the rest are on their merry way biking on burning wheels.
What I mean is, existing is harder for some of us than for others.
You feel stagnant, you feel like you have nothing to go on, or you feel like everything is moving so fast and so unpredictably that the gears in your brain are making sparks fly.
You feel yourself on skis, taking the rockiest slope down, but you’re speeding through white-out conditions. Do you stop and wait for the weather to clear, or do you keep swerving along, hoping you either smack into the next tree to put you out of your misery or that you actually live to the bottom of the hill?
Last Thursday welcomed me with a slew of anti-human tribulations. Perhaps, I thought, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Oh how cliche?
Isn’t it funny how every day starts with the same sun rising, but not every sunrise is the same intense color as the one some day before?
I woke up at 4 a.m. like I normally do, (I call myself a professional morning person…you might say “crazy”) and slipped out of bed to start my rudimentary routine (see article here: http://theburr.com/starting-point/ ). Overnight, a couple inches of snow had blessed the earth – and the roads on which I can barely drive my lawnmower-compared, traction-free, 2009 Chevy Aveo. I knew it was going to be cold, so I threw on some extra layers and rolled on extra thick socks. But something felt strange about the day. Was it the moon phase that threw me off, or perhaps my horoscope wasn’t the five stars the radio host said it would be?
I had a little sniffle and a sore throat, and by 8 a.m. I was more than ready to go back to bed. But really, I was hungry. Overwhelmingly hungry. I had eaten breakfast. I had my 265 calories of oatmeal, apple, and coffee with fat free creamer. I could eat absolutely nothing else before noon when I could have my 250 calorie lunch with hot green tea I could only make at the undergraduate lounge for English majors in Satterfield Hall. “Eat more,” I’m always told. And when you’re hungry, you eat more.
So I ate more.
And my routine for the day had been ruined. My entire day had been ruined, I thought. I threw on another layer of clothes to hide my body, hide the detested pounds of weight I gained in the past 15 minutes.
The drive to campus was miserable as I was haunted by the mishap of the morning. I was physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed. Plus, I was almost rear-ended when grandma in front of me suddenly decided to veer left. (This is why Miss Daisy gets driven.)
The skies were gray. I had to park the farthest away from my classes because it was the only spot I could see under the impenetrable layer of snow.
Walking through the student center (because going through the actual plaza outside would stick me in the infamous wind tunnel by the library), I was bombarded by the smell of hot, buttery pretzels, strong cappuccinos, cinnamon raisin bagels, and toasted sub sandwiches. I could not eat anymore. No, not for the rest of the day. I’d have to wait until tomorrow’s routine.
Class began. The teacher had brought in candy. I passed my share to the girl beside me, thinking if only I hadn’t eaten so much that morning, I’d be allowed to enjoy the strawberry Laffy Taffy. I’d be allowed to enjoy lunch. I could eat my 280 calorie dinner. But I couldn’t. So I retreated under my coat, a thick layer of wool to hide inside.
Class ended. I walked from the old art building, pondering on what I had heard an hour ago about its demolition, to Satterfield Hall. The bus that usually blocks my path to the door had not yet arrived. Today was odd.
I climbed the stairs to the second floor, having to pull my figure-hiding, long, wool coat up at my hips like a ballgown so I would not trip. The undergraduate lounge, where I had planned to eat the lunch I refused to bring with me, was more empty than usual. There was only one girl, about to leave for her next class. I knew her from Kent’s writing club.
“Oh hey,” she said as I emerged from my hefty, spacious coat, and then, “I like your outfit.”
“Thanks,” I said, and didn’t give it much thought until she was already out the door.
“I like your outfit.”
I didn’t get the chance to tell her that the sweater was from Peru, that the boots had no traction and I often slipped on the ice, or that my scarf was very soft, and I wasn’t sure it really matched.
Another student came into the lounge to pick up a textbook he had left. I knew him, too, from English club. His first words were “nice outfit” and those were his only words.
“Wait,” I screamed in my head, “I have to tell you about it! I have to tell you about the Peruvian sweater, the useless winter boots, the scarf and…and…what about how I look? My body? You didn’t see how much I ate. You don’t know how many calories. You don’t know that…that…my outfit looks nice because I don’t?”
Not inside, anyway.
Kind words make a world of difference. I was hiding my body because I felt hideous and ashamed. But no one cared about that. No one cared about the imaginary 15 pounds or the calories swimming in my body. I looked “nice” to them. What mattered wasn’t how I felt I looked, but how I actually looked. And I looked fine. Nice. The power of outward appearance does not always reflect the inward persona.
But I looked nice, I was told. And that felt good to know. I like to think looks only matter inside our heads.