Hiding Me

I got off the scale, two-hundred and fifty pounds, how had I gotten to this point. I'll grant you that I had always been overweight, but this was ridiculous. But could I even lose the weight, I had always been a heavy kid. I wasn't very old when I could remember my grandmother telling my dance teacher, "My Helen is like my daughter Sarah, she's just always been big boned. I remember Sarah as a little girl, she was the biggest kid in her class. Big blue eyes and long brown hair, but bigger than the other kids, to me she was always beautiful." Maybe I really was like my Aunt Sarah. Maybe I was just going to be a big girl. Who was I fooling with the politically correct phrases of my grandmother? I was going to be fat, just like my Aunt Sarah. I had seen my Aunt Sarah, she had moved to Alaska after my tenth birthday, but she had been back to visit since then. She was a big woman. In fact, these days she was so overweight she had a hard time moving. My Aunt Sarah could lose a hundred pounds and she would still be a big woman. I was next, I knew I was next. All my life I had been compared to my Aunt Sarah, it would be ridiculous to think that I would be able to escape getting fat if she hadn't been able to. I looked in the mirror, even if I sucked in I still had a belly. I saw my stretch marks and the cellulite that decorated my body, disgusting. I was disgusting and gross, I had always thought that overweight people were gross, even as a young girl. Fate is filled with irony, and the biggest irony is that even while I had hated being compared to Aunt Sarah growing up, I was indeed just like her, in the way that I had feared the most, I was fat. Of course, many of the women in my family were overweight. My Aunt Sarah was fat, my grandmother could just barely move, my Aunt Jessica was almost to that point. I was almost to that point too, the point where I was so overweight I couldn't move. Just another victim to the family curse.

I couldn't help but wonder how my mother had escaped. Was it just genetics? My grandmother had excused her weight gain as being a side effect of having six kids, but my mother had five children and she was still slender and athletic. My Aunt Sarah had only one child, a boy, and my Aunt Jessica and I had never had any children. I didn't want to imagine how large we would be if we ever did decide to have kids, my grandmother had been slender when she got married. I had been fat all my life, how big would I get if I got pregnant? It hadn't affected my mother but then I had never been very lucky. I had the wrong genes, right? None of my five sisters were overweight. Yet if it wasn't my genetics what had I done wrong. Most of my younger siblings were still young, I was the only one that had graduated high school. Looking back at my high school years, I had been overweight then. Looking back at my middle school years, I had been overweight then. Maybe I had been slim in kindergarten, but who remembers what they looked like in kindergarten. I knew I had been fat by third grade. I could remember my cousins making my third-grade year miserable, teasing me about my weight. Mark was the worst of the bunch. Did he mean to be cruel? I doubt it. I think he was jealous, I was the first granddaughter after my mother had had several miscarriages. I was a sickly baby and a princess from the moment of my birth. It was only when I was about five that I had begun to gain weight and had lost my princess status. By the time I entered grade school, I was a chubby kid and a prime target for bullying. This led to a vicious cycle, one that I might never be rescued from. I would come home from school, upset because of the things I had heard through the day, and find something to eat, preferably chocolate. Just for a moment I would feel good, however short that moment might be. Then I would bury myself in a book and between the candy and the fantasy lands I chose, I could escape the events of the day.

Then there was the bullying. Mark was smart, he never left bruises where they couldn't be explained away, and he never did it where an adult was near. Or if he did do it when an adult was near they didn't catch on to the hits, emotional and physical. It was subtle things, like saying that my voice was annoying him in the car, upon which the adults would ask me to be quiet. Playing tag and ensuring that I was tagged first, and as roughly as he could manage. The worst was the things he would tell the other children about me. The clubs I couldn't join, or the embarrassing situations he would set up. For instance, one time he told me that I would be inducted into the "Rough and Ready Club" if I asked somebody if they were pregnant. I was young and did not realize how much of a social faux pas it is to ask such a question. My parents were mortified at my behavior and were sure to inform me of their disappointment. No one ever knew about Mark's induction. Another time he used hand cuffs to attach me to a tree, our grandfather was a policeman and the handcuffs were real. Then he left me there. When his mother found me, he convinced he was innocent by telling her that he had warned me about the handcuffs and I had insisted upon playing anyway. After this story, my story that he attached me to the tree seemed like a lie to convict the boy who had just been trying to save me. I think my aunt thought I didn't want to look stupid and was trying to convict her little boy rather than taking responsibility for my own action.

There was no relief from the constant bullying. He did it all the time, I couldn't run from him, or the other kids. I was related to most of them. They were at every family party and every event I attended. My only way to elude my tormenters was in the recesses of my own mind, and in the euphoria, something sweet could give me for a short time. Some people are addicted to drugs, some people are addicted to alcohol, I became addicted to food. I thought that somehow the small lift in mood it gave me was worth any side effects, including fulfilling my dreaded destiny of looking like Aunt Sarah, it hindsight I was a fool. I loved food, all food. It wasn't just candy. I liked chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, bread, chips, anything and everything I could obtain. And I would do a lot to obtain such treats.

In fact, it became a drag on my parents financially. My mother would buy a box of cookies and I would eat it in one sitting. She got to the point where she would hide anything she bought that was junk food, it didn't matter though. If anything, it raised the appeal of taking the items. I had to find them and take them in such a way that she couldn't be sure it was me that took: the candy, chip, cookies, whatever it might be she had hidden. I saw it as a form of control, I think. I saw myself as being so incredibly clever as I looked through closets and under beds for the sweets my mother had hidden. Maybe in hindsight I did know how I had been different from my siblings, but would've it have made a difference, after all I was just like Aunt Sarah. Aunt Sarah had read books to escape, Aunt Sarah even shared my eating habits. Aunt Jessica had told me about all the times Sarah and she had taken food from the pantry as kids. She even laughing, told the story of how they had eaten a whole dessert that had been meant for a company dinner. It wasn't my fault I had gotten over weight, it was just the family curse. A curse I couldn't escape, but like all people I justified my poor eating habits.

After all I had good reason for eating the foods I had eaten as a kid. I had better reason for hiding in a corner with a book, among other things the kids were less likely to bully me if I stayed quiet and out of the way. Between the books and the food, I received my comfort, it separated me from the scary world of socializing. They kept me sane, I couldn't afford to lose one or the other. My two fixes became all I thought about, all I dreamed about, and made a mental barrier between my inner self and the taunts and hits I could not escape in any other way. We all hide behind a mask; this mask protects us from the world around us. I built mine thickly and heavily hiding from the world, but also from myself.

My parents and family saw I was miserable, they saw I was gaining weight. What they didn't see was the bullying. So, their answer seemed simple, "Send her out to play with her cousins. The girl is always reading and always eating, what she needs is to get some exercise, rather than curling up in the corner with a book. Make her go play with her cousins." This was the wrong approach. Nothing made me more miserable than playing with my cousins. My family was ignoring the larger problem in my life, by concentrating on the smaller problem of my weight. They saw I was gaining weight. They saw that I was lonely. They didn't see the bullying. They didn't see the fact that I had no confidence. They never saw how much I was breaking on the inside. They did not see how broken I already was. All they saw was the weight and the adults discussed how chubby I was getting among themselves. This seemed to serve, to Mark and my other cousins, as a sign that they were justified in their treatment of me and my misery increased exponentially. A misery only increased by my family's newfound urge to encourage me to play with my cousins, as a means to make me more active.

I still remember when my uncle came over to babysit when I was about ten years old. He, like most of the family, believed that my problem solely stemmed from inactivity. His genius response was to send me out into the backyard to play with his darling children. It didn't take very long before Mark, and his siblings had me tied to a lawn chair. They then proceeded to throw a basketball at my head and catch it centimeters away from my face. A little later they blindfolded me. I didn't know where the insults were going to come from next, or the next blow for that matter. I couldn't see, and I could just barely hear. All I knew was that I was miserable, and that my misery was making "my friends" happy. I didn't cry. I never cry. But that night I found a cheesecake in the fridge. I couldn't control being forced to go outside. I couldn't control the insults I heard. I couldn't control that basketball headed for my face. I couldn't do a thing about the bruises on my arm from where the rope had been. But I ate that whole cheesecake. For a moment I ran away, but I only escaped for a moment.

It was always this way. Even if the adults were with us, I would accidently be tripped while we played soccer. Somebody would just so happen to tackle me roughly as we played tag. The ball always was aimed for my face if we played baseball and I was always the last one chosen for any team. It is easy to guess that snowball fights and dodgeball became, see how many times we can all aim for Helen. The only game I excelled at was hide and seek. I wasn't good at much, but I could hide. I hid from the other kids. I hid from my parents. I hid candy, I hid from the world and I hid from myself. Maybe I still was hiding.

I looked in the mirror there was too much of me, that was the problem. I turned around and looked at my back where my bra cut into the fat rolls. I saw my sagging thighs my large posterior. Did I have bones? I couldn't see them, maybe that is why I had never broken one. The other kids had broken my heart but couldn't find my bones. I almost chuckled at that thought, as I turned back around to face my reflection. But then I remembered how much my fat shakes when I laugh, and I remembered not to laugh. Besides I have an ugly laugh. Its too loud. Mark used to say I laughed like a hyena, because it was too loud and lasted too long, and that my body jiggled. He said that I should avoid laughing because it made me look even more ugly. I try not to laugh or smile these days. My smile is ugly too. It's too big, and I draw my upper lip showing my gums when I smile. Mark said it was the stupidest thing he ever saw. Right up there with watching me dance. I danced when I was a kid, but one of my cousins told me it made my fat jiggle and drew attention to how clumsy I was. My parents still don't know why I begged them to pull me out of dance. My mother protested the most, "But Helen, you love to dance. You have from the time you were a little baby, every time you heard music you would bounce up and down as you laughed and laughed." She didn't see that was the problem, I bounced. My cousin wasn't the first one to tell me that, one of the other little girls had said it too. "Look at Helen, her whole-body bounces when she dances." I couldn't do it anymore. I'm unattractive enough I don't need to draw attention to my flaws on a stage. Besides I had thought that girl was nice. I knew she wasn't my friend, but who would want to be my friend.

I almost had a friend once. There was a new kid entering the school, in mid-year. She hadn't heard about me yet and since she was transferring in the middle of the year, I thought, maybe she would have a hard time fitting in. Maybe the other kids would be so busy with their premade groups she would need a friend. I could be that friend. I knew I could be, I would be the person that insured she got picked when we played sports. I could be a good friend, I would be loyal and devoted and defend her if anyone tried to pick on her. I had it all planned out. For a while I thought she liked me. Okay, so Allyson had always thought I was ugly, and told me so, but I couldn't blame her for that, I thought I was ugly. Then Mark came to me. He and Allyson had started dating. Initially I had been thrilled by this thought. Allyson was my friend, and I had selfishly thought that she would convince Mark to stop bullying me. I should have known better. Instead it had the opposite effect. Mark came to me one day and said that Allyson had asked him to speak to me. Mark asked me to avoid Allyson and to stop speaking to her. He said I was annoying her and my friendship was making her miserable. He said that I was causing the other kids to avoid her and that if I really cared about her I would leave her alone. That I was a social freak and that my friendship was destroying her socially. I didn't believe him, I couldn't believe him, Allyson was my friend. Allyson would never ask me to stop hanging out with her, she was my only friend and a nice person. She wouldn't do that to me. So, he brought Allyson to talk to me. She was crying, she said she felt bad telling me this because I had been nice to her when nobody else had been, but that she would appreciate it if I didn't talk to her at school. I guess, rather than helping her, I had made fifth grade hard on her. The other kids had decided that if she hung out with me, they couldn't hang out with her. I didn't know. I didn't know I was hurting her. I promised myself I would never hurt another person by forcing them to be my friend ever again. I would destroy them by offering them friendship. It was too cruel to the other kid, I couldn't ask that of them. I was the social outcast, there was no reason to force another kid to share my misery. I almost cried that night. I was a fool, I had thought I would find a friend, I should've known.

I looked in the mirror again as I got dressed for work. I looked better with clothes on, some of the fat rolls were covered up and the only thing that was ugly was my face. That and my hair. At least Aunt Sarah had long luxurious curly hair that made her look halfway attractive. I looked disparagingly at my hair holding it up to the light. It was thin and straight, baby fine and stripped. It was only shoulder length, but even at that length it was unhealthy. It's also that color that can't quite decide if it is blond or brown, like dirt. Not the rich dirt of a garden, but the unhealthy clay that is underneath the top soil, in that type of dirt nothing grows. Nothing can, it is thin and stunted and purposeless. That is my hair, thin, stunted, scarce in color, length and volume. Nothing like Aunt Sarah's beautiful thick hair. I also didn't have her sparkling blue eyes. My eyes are brown. Not even a dark chocolate brown like Aunt Jessie's but a watery brown that is ugly, just like my hair, and my face, and my figure. I am ugly. I always have been. Even as a baby. My mother swears otherwise, but mothers always think their children are beautiful. Even when they are not. My little sister is beautiful. She is sixteen and has long brown hair that, like Aunt Sarah's curls, is opulent and beautiful. It is like dark chocolate rich and full, and her eyes are almost black in their darkness of color.

My little sister is embarrassed of me. I just figured that out last night. She brought her boyfriend over. She introduced him to my mother and father, and Joan, Tom, and Melissa. But she had asked me to be away that night. I should have known. I was away most of the night, I went to Jessica's and we watched a movie, some cheesy chick flick, while sharing some popcorn. But I guess I didn't stay away long enough. I walked in the door just as he was about to leave. I should have stayed at Aunt Jessie's for just a little longer, just five more minutes would've done it. I didn't, I wish I would've just waited, maybe stayed overnight. But I came home and as I walked in the door my sister hastily explained my presence saying, "And this is Helen, a girl who stays with us." My mother interrupted her with a stern, "You mean that's Helen, your sister." Samantha's face burned with embarrassment, but even then, I didn't get it, I guess I didn't even imagine that, well anyway. Later I understood, I was sitting in the book room reading my book, my fat pooled around me in the chair, my hair in a diminutive bun on top of my head, my ratty pajama pockets stuffed with Oreos. Then I heard Samantha come down and begin to yell at my mother, "Mom, how could you do that to me? Tell Josh that Helen is my sister. Now he'll probably start to believe that I'll look like that when I get older. Can you imagine looking like Helen? Especially me looking like Helen! So, would never happen. I mean, we all know what Helen is! Even you Mom…" I couldn't hear anymore. I closed my book, put it on the chair and ran up the stairs, I didn't cry.

That night I lay there on my bed and wondered why I was here. What purpose did I have in life? I was ugly and unwanted and even my own family was ashamed of me. The ball of hurt in my throat seemed to choke me that sleepless night. As the ceiling fan span in slow circles on my ceiling, my mind span in slow circling thoughts. I couldn't help but think that I didn't deserve to live. A creature so ugly and so much of burden upon those around her should be eradicated from the earth. Maybe not eradicated, but surely the lives of those around me would be better if I had never existed. This thought felt like a numb ache next to my heart that converged into my throat, adding to the pain of the trapped tears in my eyes. I was supposed to be like Aunt Sarah, but surely that fate could be avoided if I never got that far, if everything ended now. But I didn't want to kill myself I simply wanted to cease existing, to stop hurting, to find relief. I didn't want death I wanted relief, and end, no more. This was the darkest night of my life, never again has my mind wandered this path. I pray it never does again. Morning found me exhausted and still depressed, but I achieved my goal, no one knew of my distress but myself. I had kept my secret, I hadn't cried.

I didn't cry last night, I'm not crying now. But in the empty house staring at the mirror in my bathroom, my throat still hurts. I still feel numb. My chest still aches, I wish I would cry. I wish I could cry. Any feeling would have to be better than this. This hurt, I hurt, it hurts, it is hurting. I just want it to stop. I just want to stop hurting. I feel as if I have been bleeding and hurting form the inside out as long as I can remember. My pain runs deep where no one can see. I intend to keep it that way. I look in the mirror one last time and fix on my mask, I am hiding. Hiding from my parents, from my family, hiding from myself. We all hide behind a mask, every morning I make mine thicker and stronger. Hide and seek is the only game I was ever any good at, but only the hiding part.

I hear the phone ring and rush to answer it. It is my grandmother. Aunt Sarah had another baby. My grandmother is ecstatic. She talks about the baby. "Oh, I'm sure it will have Sarah's hair and eyes. My Sarah was such a pretty baby, I just knew that when she got married she would have beautiful children. That beautiful hair, and those amazing eyes." I couldn't help but remember my hair and eyes, I couldn't help wishing that they were beautiful too. My grandmother went on, "Of course I do have, beautiful children. All six are just absolutely stunning, if I do say so myself. Of course, your Uncle Michael, my oldest boy, is just so athletic. Your mommy too, did I ever tell you princess about how good she was in Karate growing up. I told your daddy when they got married that he better treat her well, because she was full of spice and knew how to use it. Your mommy has such a pretty figure too, so tall and elegant." I would never be like Uncle Michael, and I definitely would never be like my pretty mother. With her tall straight elegant figure and long dark brown hair and eyes. My mother was a pretty woman. I would've loved to have been a pretty woman.

I was so lost in my own thoughts that I almost missed my grandmother prattling on in background, but the essence of the conversation remained the same. To be honest with you, my grandmother believes a conversation means she talks, and someone else listens, so she didn't even notice my distraction. She spoke, of course, of course, of Sarah's hair and eyes. Jessica's ability to cook an excellent meal. The one time I tried to cook I almost burned the house down, I'll continue to eat McDonald's, thank you very much. Uncle Scott is an excellent sales man, and has moved rapidly in the company he works in. Uncle Greg is District Attorney and has a huge house with a swimming pool. My grandmother just loved how he had set it up so beautifully.

Had I heard about Mark? He and Allyson had set the date. "Your Cousin Mark, sweetheart, is so lucky to be marrying his childhood sweetheart. You and Allyson used to be close didn't you Helen? Too bad you started avoiding the poor girl after that, you must be nice to her now. After all she will be family soon. Doesn't Sam have a new boyfriend. She mentioned that she was going to bring him home to meet the family. I do hope everyone was kind to him, she seems to really like him. Joan mentioned to me the other day that she is going back to school to be a CPA, after she graduates, your mother must be so proud of her." I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have just listened to her talk. But I asked anyway, "Grandma, you always talk about Aunt Sarah's eyes, my mother's figure, and Joan's intelligence; and your proud of them." At this juncture my grandmother interrupted me to say, "Yes, they do, they make me so proud of them, so talented and beautiful." Despite her interruption I continued with my question. "Grandma, do I make you proud of me, and if yes, what about me makes you proud of me?" For the first time since I had picked up the phone, silence stretched over the line. Then the door bell rang. I have never been so thankful for an interruption in a conversation in my life. I said to my grandmother, "Hey grandma, I have to go answer the door. Love you!" And then hung up before she could say goodbye. I had heard enough anyway, she was proud of the rest of my family. Yet when she was asked if I made her proud, my normally loquacious grandmother was silent.

That single fact hurt more than Sam's betrayal or Mark's taunts. I would not cry, I do not cry, not matter how much it may hurt. I heard the door bell ring again, and again, and again. I slowly made my way to the door and opened it. It was our new neighbor Chris Harrison. He was a tall, blond, and attractive psychiatrist. Even Allyson and Sam had thought he was attractive when he showed up in the neighborhood. They had watched him move in from the front porch and had marveled at his handsome face and figure. I had too, but I knew better than to dream. Guys who look like Chris Harrison don't even look at fat, ugly, wall flowers, I knew that. And now when I was second away from tears, and looking my worst, here he was on our front step. "Hi," he said, "I'm your new…" then he stopped and said quietly, "Are you okay?"

I couldn't help it, I began to cry. Torrents of tears and hurt came out in that moment, for years I had hidden, and no one had thought to look for me. No one had seen my hurt, I hadn't wanted them to, I had stopped laughing and stopped smiling and no one had noticed or cared. For years they had ignored me, and I was happy they ignored me. I was happy if they did anything but hurt me. But now at my most vulnerable that kind word from a stranger had started an emotional cleansing I had long needed. He didn't say a word, he just took my hand and pulled me out of the house and on to the front steps and let me cry, just sitting beside me and watching. Every once in a while, touching my shoulder and letting me know he was there. After my tears had worn themselves out, he said again, very gently, "Are you okay?" That poor man probably regretted asking, I told him, "NO!" and began to unload to this poor stranger. I'm not sure I even recognized at that moment that I was talking to a very attractive man, goodness knows I told him everything. That poor, poor man had to learn of every escape, that only lasted a moment, every tear I hadn't cried, and every insult I hadn't responded to. He must have been a patient man, he sat there and listened to every word, with so much kindness written on his handsome face.

When I finally finished my rant, he looked at me for a few moments, and then took my hands in his and said, "Helen, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever met in my life, and it's not doing you any good until you believe it." I cannot tell you the sensations of disbelief that filled me at this moment. I almost believed that he was toying with me or insulting my intelligence. I knew better than to think that I was beautiful. I had both a mirror and eyes. In fact, I had spent the last half hour using both and the results had not been beautiful. The only possible conclusion of my personal perusal was that I was hideously ugly with my thin hair watery eyes and all that fat. But Chris gave me no time to object his analysis, instead he carried on, expressing his thoughts. Perhaps he knew better than to listen to my thoughts on the matter, the man is a psychiatrist after all. Thus, he continued, "You always have been and always will be beautiful, and looking at you right now, I can tell you honestly." Honestly, yeah right, there was no honesty in what he was saying, I couldn't even look at him and see his pity and his lies in his eyes. He wasn't going to have that however, and his voice was full of authority when he said, "Look at me Helen. Look me in the eyes." The honesty and earnestness I saw there made my conviction of my own ugliness stutter. How could I ignore the truth in the blue depths of his eyes? He said. "In my eyes you don't have to lose a pound to be beautiful. I like you just the way you are, and people like your cousin and sister, are stupid not to see the world like I do." I couldn't help but wonder if I was stupid to miss seeing in myself what he seemed to see. He had just met me. What did he see? Apparently not the fat thin haired girl I had seen in the mirror that morning. Apparently not the tear swollen still fat wreck I must be now, crying doesn't generally do favors to one's complexion. I couldn't help wondering, what did those blue eyes see?

But he continued, "If you were comfortable with your weight I wouldn't say a word. But I think we're agreed when I say, you aren't comfortable with your weight." Gee, how did he ever guess I wasn't comfortable with my weight. Maybe my tears or my long over complicated story. I couldn't help it, I laughed a little wryly at his observation, talk about understatement of the year. "So, I want to help you to diet, not because I think you need to change, but because I want you to see what I see." He looked a little worried at this juncture and his blue eyes pierced mine as he said, "Do you understand, and will you trust me?" Trust was a hard concept for me, but something in me made me trust this man. There was no other answer but, "Yes." He seemed overjoyed when I responded in the affirmative. "Wait right here," he hurriedly said as he jumped up and ran to his house. He came back with pamphlet after pamphlet about dieting and exercise. I couldn't help but laugh at his enthusiasm as between the two of us we laid out a diet for me. A simple calorie counting diet I could follow. A permanent escape from the family curse.

The diet plan he laid out for me was simple but doable, I could have whatever I wanted as long as I stayed under sixteen hundred calories. He installed a calorie counter on m y phone and I began to enter in every bite I ate. There were days where I ate my entire caloric intake in ice cream, but if I did so it was my mistake I was in control of my destiny. However, doing such a thing left me hungry and sick later. Thus, I soon learned my mistake, and rather than grabbing a chocolate bar I would grab an apple to soothe my desire for sweets. Another breakthrough was that I learned to cook and stopped my fast food habit. Although I cook on a healthier level than many of my family. I don't always have the time to cook now that I am back in college and work full time. So, I also began to support the protein bar and shake industry. They were easy for Chris and me to grab as we worked out at the gym. Or as I rush from a college to work and back. Once a week I would have my mess up day, and then Chris and I would go and get dinner and walk around the lake at the park. That's where our romance began in those long walks around the lake. He already knew my darkest secrets and fears, but I soon learned that he was thirty-five and established as an addiction councilor. Needless to say, this probably aided his treatment of my eating disorder, although he actually specializes in alcoholism. We also learned things less trivial, like our favorite colors and childhood dreams, despite the darkness of my childhood I did have happy daydreams. Eventually our conversations included jewelry preferences, he proposed on my front steps. The place my life began.

I think my final denigration into tears that day on the front steps may have been the best break life has ever given me. After so many years of holding in my tears I fell apart all at once, but I found an angel to put me back together. Chris Harrison is my best friend, and next week he will be my husband, he's also my guardian angel. I can't tell you how much his interference that day changed my life. The most importance differences are that I dance now. I laugh all the time. I can't help smiling, and I know how beautiful these changes truly are. Next week I will walk down the aisle a bride at a hundred and fifty pounds. My eyes are bright, and my hair now falls to my mid waist, although these days I usually wear it up. Its absence was more important than its presence to my subconscious apparently. I may even cut it again, I miss the convenience of my old shoulder length hair do. My uncles are horrified when I mention such a decision, but I don't care. For the first time in my life I don't care what my family thinks, In the words. To quote Chris, "Do what makes you think you look good, there is nothing more attractive than confidence." To keep my confidence, I see the world as Chris sees it, I see myself and others as beautiful because of who they are. Maybe that was the true family curse, not being overweight, but our inability to see the essence of an individual rather than their accidentals. I didn't have to worry about being like Aunt Sarah. I should have worried more about seeing the world through Mark's eyes. Out of the two of us he is the one to be pitied. He doesn't have Chris as his guide and he sees people as what they are not who they are. Isn't that a terrible curse to bear?