Family Time Situation

I love family.  Who doesn’t?  When, however, do you draw the line and say that enough is enough?  Is five hours of “together time” enough?  Ten hours?  How about two days?  What happens when two long days drag into three or four?

It depends upon how you define “family”.  I love spending time with my grown children, but I intentionally keep the time short so as to not wear out my welcome.  Four or five days, max, and I’m gone.  Don’t get me wrong. I love our time together, but I recognize that lengthy visits become an imposition.  After all, tall my “children” lead hectic lives filled with work, school, children (in my daughter’s case), and a social life all their own.  They are not dependent upon me for their entertainment.

With my husband’s family it is different.  They seem to suck up time like a tornado, sweeping along anyone caught in their path.  Hours slowly turn into days, which then morph, painfully, into weeks.  Invitations crop up more regularly than armpit hair, and turning one down causes an earthquake that sets new highs on the Richter scale.

Is my perception an “in-law” thing?  That would be a partially correct interpretation.  The family shares a long history of names and places that mean little to me.  My husband’s family is huge, with roots beginning in Nebraska and with branches stretching from coast to coast, north to south.  I can’t keep all the cousins straight, let alone all the children produced within those relationships.

There are only so many times you can hear what someone’s house looks like, in a painfully drawn out explanation.  How is dear Uncle Jay doing?  The story is good for another five minutes, at most.  Then there are the wedding plans for the niece, which have to be retold every time an arrival steps into the room.  Comments about decorations, food, remodeling projects and health only carry a conversation so far.

Walking out of the room to enjoy some solitude is only permitted when a bathroom break is needed.  It’s amazing how many times that toilet seat calls!  One has to be careful even then, however, as too many visits prompt discussions about intestinal mishaps, surgeries, cancers, and deaths.

I do care for my husband’s family.  They are big-hearted people who accept everyone into their lives and hearts.  Once met, never forgotten and you are family for the rest of your life.

What is overwhelming are the never-ending parties that start late, run even later, and go on for days.  Dinner at five?  Arrive at four for cocktails and snacks?  Don’t worry if you get out of the house late or if you are held up in traffic, for you won’t have missed a thing.  You’ll be lucky to eat by seven.  Over by eight? Forget it.  Family parties frequently run into the early morning hours, dying only when the last standing person caves and crawls out the door.

Refusing an invitation is tantamount to causing a revolution.  Shock and dismay registers, for who could turn down such a lovely family?

After a few hours, I get restless.  My legs twitch and my eyes glaze over.  My patience takes a hike after hearing about Aunt Mabel’s hip surgery for the sixth time.  I yearn for a good book and a quiet corner like some folks salivate over rare tri-tip roast beef.  Give me my computer!  Put on a good movie, even one that I’ve seen!  Turn on the stereo so that music fills the gaps in conversation.

As a hostess, I am conscious of my guests’ time.  Things begin and end when stated.  Dinner is served promptly.  Dessert and tea to follow.  An evening together is just that, and no more.  Never do I stretch a gathering into double digits, even when the guest is staying at my house.  I retreat into my solitude, allowing my company time to relax and recoup energy.

One time declined an invitation.  Mind you, this was after being together for twenty-four hours.  I thought that the earth would shatter and swallow me up!  My husband gasped and turned pale, so I quickly amended my decline by adding that he could come if he wanted.  My mother-in-law gave me a look that questioned my competence, and my sister-in-law giggled nervously, followed by a muffled cough.

Oh, well.  Here we go again.  How much time is too much time to be together as family?  When I quantify it with charts, graphs, and concrete statistics, I’ll let you all know.  Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my gut instincts.  When the stories recycle, then the party should be over.

Child’s Play

Easy, breezy, light and freezy

squeezy, sleazy, sometimes squeaky

Fluttery, buttery, I’m not nuttery

Cattery, splattery, but no flattery

Speedily, bleedily, just not greedily

Eerily, blearily, eyes are tearily

Quakery, shakery, give me cakery

Flakery, bakery, do not takery

Snuggle me, bungle me, don’t tungle me

Spangle me, dangle me, please jangle me

Laughy, gaffy, just plain daffy

Play with words every dayfy

 

My Namesake

From the time I was old enough to process and understand names, I have hated mine. There was something ominous is the way my parents used it to call me to attention. When I heard Teresa, I understood that I had committed some grievous wrong. When they tacked on my middle name, Louise, then severe physical punishment was coming.

There were other issues that I encountered once I entered school. First of all, no one knew how to spell it. In Ohio, Teresa was always spelled with an h. My mother’s limited education must have negatively impacted her academic skills as it wasn’t just my name she had difficulty with.  She struggled with grammar, sentence construction and subject-verb agreement as well. But Teresa instead of Theresa affected my perception of how others saw me.

Because my brother’s nickname was Billy, my parents called me Terry whenever I wasn’t in trouble. Which, by the way, I frequently found myself embroiled in one controversy after another. Terry is a boys’ name. Girls whose names are shortened spell it Teri. Because mine was the male version, I was ridiculed mercilessly.

In the Catholic Church at that time, when a child was confirmed a new middle name was added. My brother took on my father’s first name. When it was my turn the next year, I chose Marie, my beloved grandmother’s middle name. Forever on I would be Teresa Louise Marie.

I never knew that names could be legally changed. It never came up in a class and I never heard anyone mention it in casual conversation. If I had known such a thing was possible, today I would go by Marie, a beautiful name in honor of our Virgin Mary.

Another error my mother made was theoretically naming after St. Therese the Little Flower. She told me repeatedly that’s who she chose as my saint-name. Obviously it wasn’t, I discovered when as an elementary-school student I was assigned to research and write about my patron saint. Imagine my embarrassment when I found out the error!

All my little life I’d been the Little Flower. Now I was not.

So who am I really named after? St. Teresa of Avila. Last year when we traveled through Spain, one of our rest stops was at an overlook of Avila. Off in the distance was the city where she lived. Along the path leading to the city were a series of signs that spoke of the history of the city as well as that of St. Teresa. In fact, she was such a huge factor in the beliefs of the time that her burial spot and the church at which she worshipped are now part of a pilgrimage tour.

It’s ironic that my mother got things wrong. The Little Flower lived a cloistered life and died at the age of 24. Unlike many saints, she never left the cloister to go on a mission, she never founded a religious order but chose to live within hers, and she is not credited with performing any great works. There is a collection of prayers attributed to her, the only book that she was known to write. She grew up in a family of nine. Most of her sisters entered religious orders.

When Therese fell seriously ill, she prayed to Mary, not aloud, but in her mind. After that her goal was to be a saint and the way to accomplish that was to live in a cloister. While she was not a vocal participant, her quiet way of praying impressed those who knew her.

Those of you who know me, understand that I am, in no way, the Little Flower. I will admit that at the age of 13 I wanted to join a convent. Not due to religious fervor, but as an escape out of what I felt was a miserable life, one in which I was treated as inferior to my older brother and my younger sister. That was the only reason. I did not fully understand the dedication to prayer that life would entail, not did I care. I was only searching for a way out.

In actuality I am more like St. Teresa of Avila, who was a mystic, a writer who published several books, and extremely well-educated. She had earned a Doctorate in Theology and was a reformer who challenged her religious order who was incensed at religious laxity. Her books contribute an important understanding to mysticism and meditation. Her beliefs have inspired a variety of researchers, namely philosophers, theologians, historians, neurologists, fiction writers and artists.

When she was young, during a bout of severe illness, she came to believe in the power or prayer to overcome sin. This led her to split off from her cloister and to establish a new one with stricter rules. She then received dispensation from the church to travel about instituting new cloisters.

While I am not a leader in the church, I do pray daily, and have from childhood. I enjoyed attending Mass, and when we didn’t go due to inclement weather, I was despondent. To this day I am active in my church, choosing to sing in the choir and to be a lector, one who reads sections of the bible from the ambo at the front of the church.

Like my namesake, I love to write. Many of her works were published after death. I hope I don’t have to wait that long! She persevered in her writings, as so do I. She was the inspiration for changes within her order. I tried to inspire changes within how special education students were perceived and taught. Teresa was a leader in her time. In many ways, when I was still teaching, I was also seen to be a leader.

When I look at this image of her, I see myself in the shape of her chin, the wrinkles about her eyes, and the way she holds her pen.

Although my mother made a mistake in spelling, her choice more closely matches who I have become.

I still don’t like my name, but it has grown on me. If someone called me Marie now, I wouldn’t know who they wanted to speak with. I will always be Terry, the Little Flower.

 

Lessons I Have Learned

Academically I am a relatively fast learner, in most subjects. I excelled in anything math-related, struggled with science and English, but picked up languages as easily as ridding sidewalks of garbage.

I loved most PE exercises unless it involved swimsuits or leotards (primarily due to weight issues and fat-shaming). When computers came on the scene, wow, did I ever master that quickly!

Unfortunately due to poor awareness in social situations, it takes me a lot longer than most to process what’s happening and develop an appropriate response. This is the area where I have had to work very hard over the seventy years of my life. It’s something that I continue to struggle with today.

So what have I learned?

When entering a given social situation it’s best to find a spot off to the side of the room, close enough to what’s happening to hear words and register facial responses, but not in the midst of the crowd. Once I have analyzed the situation and calculated an appropriate strategy, I move in, with a pat comment prepared. This works almost all the time.

I seldom initiate an invitation to lunch as I afraid of rejection. This means that I rely on the kindness of others to include me, a strategy that often fails. Because of this I seek out loners. Say there’s a woman sitting by herself, I will approach and ask if I can join her. Since she’s also a loner, conversation can be awkward, but at least there are two of us!

When someone asks a question about an interest of mine, I assume that person is simply being polite. I have learned to give a short response then turn the conversation toward the asker. Since most people love talking about themselves, this strategy has paid off.

For example, if I’m walking with friends and one asks what I’d like to eat, I might say, “Oh, a lot of different things. What would you like?” Notice how easy that is? Of course now I have to hope that she chooses something I really do like to eat!

Because I belong to several groups, this strategy is incredibly effective. The few times when I have clearly stated a preference, if it’s not supported, I will acquiesce.

My husband’s family is quite large and they love to gather together. These are challenging for me. He grew up with a ton of cousins that all have a shared memory, even if they haven’t spent a lot of time together as adults. Within minutes of the greeting, they are deep in convivial conversations that I know nothing about. My strategy is to get something cold to drink and find a corner in which I can find solace in my own thoughts.

Hiding in plain sight is something I excel at due to years of invisibility, so I find it exceptionally easy to implement. Unfortunately it also means that I am isolated for the duration of the gathering.

The most challenging situation for me is when my writing is being critiqued. I want to hear the advice of colleagues, but I also want my turn to end as soon as possible in order to move the spotlight away. The thirty minutes or so that my submission is being discussed are the longest minutes of my life! I have learned to minimalize eye contact, take copious notes, and never ask clarifying questions. The problem with this strategy is that now that I am older, it is hard for me to write and listen. I am much better with eye contact than depending upon what I hear, so my pen can’t keep up with spoken ideas.

What I need to learn is to ask for written comments. Notes. Critique. But I don’t because that requires the strength to initiate the request, which I don’t have.

Not everyone who is socially awkward has the same issues that I have, but many do. I hope that by sharing strategies that work for me, others will find something that they can implement.

Or perhaps someone reading this will look about and find that loner and realize that she is sitting on that bench or at that table or leaning against that pillar not because she wants to be alone, but because she doesn’t know how to reach out. Then when realization hits, the outgoing individual will remember what I have shared and approach, smile ready, and invite the loner into the circle. And invite her over and over and over again.

Life’s lessons are sometimes challenging because often life dishes up issues that are never resolved. You just learn to deal with them. To make do.

That’s what I have learned.

 

Redemption

Once again there was no Christmas to celebrate with family: Sarah had outlived all of her relatives. That’s the problem with getting old. Everyone she knew had disappeared, leaving her all alone. Part of Sarah’s problem, however, wasn’t that she was considered ancient, but that she had never married, never had children, and because of choices her parents had made when she was young, had no idea if she had any cousins, aunts or uncles.

Last year in mid-summer, a pretty young woman dressed in a yellow-flowered shift knocked on her door claiming to be a niece. Sarah thought there was some resemblance to her mother, the shape of the woman’s chin, the color of her hair, and so she’d let her in. The woman, named Vickie, visited a couple of times, always polite and always refusing a cool beverage or a sweet treat. On the fourth visit, Vickie entered in tears and proceeded to share a sad story about being broke, being stranded in an unfamiliar city, and being desperately in need of money. Vickie never asked outright for money, but it was certainly implied. No dollar amount was specified, but Sarah’s guess what that it was in the thousands.

Sarah was smart enough to know it was a scam, so after the hints became more of demands, the woman scuttled out as Sarah called the cops. Several days later the newspaper carried a story in which the woman was killed in the nearby park during a scuffle, possibly over drugs. While she hated reading about the Vickie’s death, Sarah breathed a sigh of satisfaction that she hadn’t fallen for the “poor is me” story and handed out wads of cash. Or invited her to move in.

There were friends at the senior center that Sarah enjoyed seeing. People she ate lunch with nearly every day or that she’d talk with over a cup of coffee and day-old snacks that a volunteer brought in. She’d invited one woman, Sandy, to join her for lunch and a movie, but Sandy declined and never reciprocated.

Because no visitors would walk through her doors, Sarah hadn’t bothered to put out what few decorations she still had. The artificial tree, kept in the basement, hadn’t seen an ornament in years. The tree wasn’t too heavy for her, but because of its shape, it was awkward to lug up the narrow stairs while clinging to the handrail.

To bring up the tree first she’d have to rearrange the furniture. Sarah used to set the tree up in the front window, the one that overlooked the street, so that when the lights were on, everyone could enjoy the beautiful sparkles. Sometimes neighbors would comment about how cheery it looked, but these days Sarah wasn’t cheery.

The other issue was that she didn’t know if any of the light strings worked. That would be another hassle. Carry them up, plug them in, replace burnt out bulbs, repeat over and over. If she didn’t have enough replacements it would mean a trip to the store and facing endless questions about if she was going somewhere or having folks over. It she had said that she was celebrating alone, then there’d be sighs and condolences. But no invitations.

She owned a ton of Christmas CDs, but she didn’t play any of them partly because they were buried behind stacks of more recent purchases and partly because it was too much effort when she could hear all the music she wanted, and more, on the little radio she kept by her chair.

Years ago she’d bought a fancy receiver, multi-CD player and desktop speakers.  The last time she’d turned it on all she got was screeching noises. She’d tried everything she knew to get it to work, but gave up. Probably new speakers were needed, but at her age, why bother?

There was a time when she would have enjoyed the challenge of fixing things, but not now. She lacked the strength and agility to bend, pull, push and connect. Therefor things remained broken if unessential. Otherwise she hired someone. Because she’d lived without the stereo for years, that would be an unnecessary expense.

Sarah had every right to be gloomy despite the cheery Christmas music and the colorful displays in every store, but she tried not to let loneliness drag her down. The sun was shining this fine Christmas Eve, and since it was relatively warm for the San Francisco Bay Area, she put on a jacket and headed out for her daily walk around her neighborhood. This was a ritual she loved so much that she timed it so that dusk was just beginning to fall as she closed the door behind her. She wanted it to be not too dark for kids to still be outside and just dark enough for the colorful lights to come on as she walked. And since it was nearly Christmas, almost every house would be lit up.

Today she headed north toward the park at the end of the block. A pair of young boys rode bikes past her, their high-pitched voices shrieking with excitement. Sarah bet they were dreaming of all the wonderful gifts they’d open the next day. She smiled even though there were no presents for her. Hadn’t been for years.

When she was in her twenties she’d fallen for George Miles, a not-so-handsome teacher at the high school where she worked. His neatly combed black hair, his crisply ironed button-down shirts and his funny way with words warmed her heart. Sarah sat near him every day at lunch so she could laugh at his not-quite-funny jokes and enjoy his riffs of contemporary music. She kept a dreamy look off her face so as not to scare him away and never, ever stared at his face even though the cleft in his chin tickled her pink. If word had gotten out that she fancies George, she would have been the laughingstock of the campus. Handsome George would never have fallen for plain Sarah. And then the most severe deterrent was that it was unseemly for a teacher to flirt with a peer.

For years she’d dreamed of the dates they’d go on, the kisses and the proposal after a fancy dinner, followed by a summer wedding in a lush backyard garden. Never once, however, had he asked how she was doing or engaged her in conversation or said good morning or dropped into her classroom to share curriculum even though they often taught the same level of math.

One August about fifty years ago, when school resumed, George did not appear. Sarah learned from the gossipers that he’d transferred to Fremont High School where his salary would be substantially higher. Her dreams crushed, Sarah swore there would never be a workplace romance, no marriage, no children and resigned herself to a life lived alone.

Other teachers teased her about her single status and one tried to set her up with a new hire, an odd-looking fellow with such a heavy accent that he was hard to understand. Sarah declined, but that didn’t stop further attempts at coordinating blind dates. After a while even those dried up.

At the park Sarah set on the one bench that wasn’t covered in bird poop and watched four little kids climb up and slide down, over and over, laughing and giggling as watchful parents stood guard. She imagined herself as a mother and how she’d walk hand-in-hand with her child everywhere they went, the snuggles on the couch while she read book after book and nighttime treats of vanilla ice cream and macaroon cookies. It saddened her that she’d never held her own newborn, never know the joys of motherhood, but what’s done is done. No going back now. Not at her age.

The kids were rounded up as the sun set lower. The parents dutifully buckled them up in car seats before pulling away from the curb. Sarah fought back tears that inevitably fell after such events.

She resumed her walk, this time one block over where there were a series of blowup decorations. Her favorites were Snoopy and the Grinch. Whenever she passed a Nativity scene she stopped for a minute to thank God for the blessings in her life. That left her feeling buoyantly proud of how well she’d managed despite being alone. A paid-off house, car, and an ability to live on her retirement.

Felling a bit chilled after the walk, Sarah brewed a cup of Chamomile tea as her microwaved dinner cooked. She turned on the evening news and listened, in horror, about shootings and stabbings and thefts all around the Bay Area. It was depressing how violent the world had become. She didn’t recall things being so bad before.

After eating she cleaned up a bit, wiping down kitchen counters and washing her fork and cup. She settled into her recliner and pulled the new sherpa-lined throw she’d ordered from JC Penneys that had come the day before. Just as her body warmed, an unfamiliar noise arose that drove Sarah to her front window from where she could see all the goings-on in her courtyard.

Outside stood a group of carolers, young and old, smiling despite the steam pouring from their open mouths. Their sound was beautiful even though a few loud voices sang off-tune. Sarah opened the door, saying, “Oh, my, how beautiful. Would you like to come in?”

Once inside with caps removed, she recognized her neighbors. “Oh! Thanks for coming. I’d offer you seats, but as you can see, well, I’m sorry, but I can’t seat you all.”

“No matter,” the youngest little boy said, “we’ll sit on the floor.”

There were four children spoke who quietly among themselves while the adults, in singles and pairs, approached with gifts. Ms. Bern offered a tin of homemade shortbread cookies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith a foil-wrapped plate of lasagna and the Mendoza clan of six gave her tamales and enchiladas. “We wanted you to have a special Christmas,” Mrs. Mendoza said, “so we made our favorite holiday foods to share.”

Sarah beamed. “This-this is wonderful. I don’t know what to say.”

“Just enjoy,” Mr. Bern said. “Now, we’d like to sing for you.”

Song after song rang out in her normally quiet house. For the first time in a long time, Christmas joy spread enlightened her. Sarah felt so buoyant that she feared her feet no longer touched the floor.

It was over way too soon, but the carolers had others they wanted to bless. As they left, Sarah shook hand after hand, saying, “Thank you so much.”

The last to leave, the Smiths, folded her into a group hug as Mrs. Smith said, “You’re invited to Christmas dinner. We’ll have snacks around four, so come then. You don’t have to dress up as we’ll be wearing jeans.”

That night Sarah couldn’t sleep. She hadn’t shared Christmas joy with another soul in over thirty years, after her parents died in a horrific car accident. To be with the Smiths was a chance to laugh and enjoy good food. The Smiths were a happy family of four, so there’d be plenty of stories told and friendly teasing and tons of joy to go around.

Even though she wasn’t supposed to bring anything, the next morning Sarah searched through cookbooks to find something simple, yet tasty to make. She settled on a cheese log that was once a big hit at potlucks.

Prior to leaving, Sarah tried on a variety of outfits: light blue jeans with sweaters, dark jeans with tunics, black jeans with blouses. Eventually she settled on blue jeans with a dark green sweater. A Christmassy look, but not too formal.

At precisely three-fifty-five Sarah slipped on her jacket and strolled down the street, cheese log wrapped and balanced in her hands. Before she could ring the bell, however, the door opened, a smiling Mrs. Smith welcoming her with a smile and hug. “Come in, come in. It’s freezing out there.”

She led Sarah into the front room, indicating a chair before a fire in the gas fireplace. “Would you like something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Hot coco? Soda?”

“Tea would be nice. Do you have Earl Gray?”

With Mrs. Smith off to the kitchen, Sarah looked around. A beautifully decorated artificial tree stood in the front window, all reds and silvers. Underneath were opened gifts, mostly books and board games and bits of clothing. On every flat surface was a symbol of Christmas: santas, nativity sets, angels and snowmen. Cinnamon filled the air, reminding Sarah of the freshly baked cookies her mother made when she was a little girl.

The front door opened and in rushed two boys followed by Mr. Smith. The three tossed boots and coats in the entryway, then the kids disappeared down the hall. “Well, hello,” Mr. Smith said as he stood with his back to the fire. “I’m glad you came. Christmas is a time to gather together. We just couldn’t bear the thought of you being alone.”

“I don’t mind,” Sarah said. “I’ve been alone most of my life.”

“Well, it’s time to establish new traditions.”

Mrs. Smith entered with a tray of tea cups, hot water and a variety of what most likely were homemade cookies and brownies. “Help yourself,” she said, then turning to her husband, said, “turn on some music please.”

The kids appeared when the music began. Everyone sang along, even Sarah, who hadn’t sung outside of church since her teen years. It was great fun.

“Dinner is ready. Time to eat,” Mrs. Smith said as she led the way into the dining room.

Sarah sat next to Mr. Smith who turned out to be a lively conversationalist. He was well versed in politics, sports, literature and local affairs. The kids entertained by sharing jokes that weren’t quite funny but that everyone thought hilarious anyway, so Sarah laughed with them. Mrs. Smith was also a joy, because she shared stories of her students’ sillinesses.

The evening passed quickly. Around seven Mr. Smith offered to walk her home. He helped her with her coat after ordering the kids to say goodbye. Mrs. Smith hugged Sarah so tightly that it was difficult to breathe, but Sarah didn’t mind at all.

“Did you have a nice evening?” Mr. Smith asked when they arrived at Sarah’s door.

“Yes, yes I did. In fact, it’s the best Christmas I’ve ever had. Thanks for inviting me.”

After hanging up her coat, Sarah turned on her television just in time to catch a Christmas movie. It was one of those with a predictable storyline: woman meets man, they don’t like each other, they talk, they fight, they fall in love and live happily ever after.

Sarah didn’t mind one bit. She’d just experienced her own storybook evening. This will be a Christmas to remember, she thought.

 

A Glimpse of Fame

Many years ago Mike and I were in New York City prior to going overseas. It was cold, rainy and windy. We were miserable but determined to walk all over the city.

At one intersection we were handed a flyer and invited to attend a live filming of a television talk show. Neither of us had ever done anything like that, so to satisfy curiosity and to get out of the weather, we went.

After filling out several forms, we were ushered into a large, narrow hall where we were seated with thirty others. Food was in abundance. There were gourmet sandwiches and expensive pasties along with a variety of fruits, salads and drinks. Since it was near lunchtime, we enjoyed ourselves.

Eventually a spokesperson instructed us in proper behavior during filming: to sit quietly and try not to cough or sneeze. He also explained what we would see, from the studio to the cameras and crew. It was very informative and exciting.

After the explanation we lined up and were escorted inside. A sorting process took place in which some were sent to the front row, some to the back, most to the middle rows. We were buried in the middle.

Initially I didn’t understand what decisions controlled who sat where, but once the camera swooped over the crowd and we could see on several large screens what the camera saw, it became obvious.

At that time I was quite heavy. I was not the only overweight person in the audience, but in introspect, I was probably among the heaviest. All of us fatsos were buried in the middle rows, hidden behind those in front and flanked by those on our sides and backs. We were so well hidden that the camera only picked up our images from collarbones to the tops of our heads.

In other words, no one in TV land would be affronted by fat bodies. It hurt when this realization hit me, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I resolved myself to sit back and enjoy the show.

I did.

The host had a pleasant personality. She engaged with members of the audience, often asking questions and then expanding on comments. Behind her was a large window through which we could see crowds of passersby staring in.

I don’t recall who she was, who the guest was or even the topic of the show.

I do recall my humiliation and the amazement at how taping a live show worked.

The reason I am sharing this now is that I don’t believe the producers intended to insult me, but rather present a pleasing picture to watchers. If this was so, then shouldn’t they have been aware that many of the watchers would have also been overweight? And that the message they were sending was that the overweight needed to be hidden? Invisible in plain sight?

Granted this took place over ten years ago before all kinds of awareness movements came forward educating the populace about fat-shaming. Even so, someone, somewhere in the back offices should have spoken up. Someone who had a weight issue of their own. Someone who understood what it was like to exist in a world that catered to the skinny.

 

I Yearn to be Seen

I am the sole of your shoe,

the dirt that you spit upon,

and the excrement of fish

that sinks into the silt

quickly becoming invisible.

 

I am the one who sits in the

last seat, in the last row,

who never says a word, or joins

a group, or makes any sound,

trying to be invisible.

 

I am the one that you never see,

even when you brush against

my back or shoulder in a crowd,

the one that you never grace with

a smile, for I am invisible.

 

I yearn to have a friend of my own,

someone who shares secrets with me,

holds my hand, carries my books,

asks for my phone number, so that

I will no longer be invisible.

 

I am tired of sitting alone, day after day,

munching on my cardboard lunch

while others around me joke and speak

of adventures of which I will never know,

for I remain invisible.

 

I ask for your attention, your time,

which you so willingly give to your

chosen few, the “in crowd,” those that

raise your status, your time card, but

not me, for I am invisible.

 

I beg you to stop just once and ask

my name, to hold the door and let me

enter first, to invite me to join your group

for lunch, or to be my partner, to wipe away

my cloak of invisibility

 

so that I may be seen for who I am,

a child of God

a blessed soul

a friend in waiting