"I've lost thirty pounds and nothing has changed except the size of my jeans," I said to my therapist. She nodded as therapists do. "It has nothing to do with my weight, does it?"
It really wasn't a question.
Throughout my married life, my husband would stand behind me, feign a hug, and then push down on my hips to make them inches smaller and move his hands away to watch everything pop back into place. I'll admit it was funny, even fun. Until it wasn't. But I never called him out on it. I jumped on the body-hating bandwagon and became an expert at camouflaging my figure with ill-fitting, non-breathing, binding undergarments. I wore baggy clothes, worked out, lost weight. I started taking the pictures and stopped being in them. I also stopped looking at myself from the waist down, preferring the bathroom mirror to the one in the bedroom. It was a game of hide and no-seek that I played only with myself. Although it was he who perpetuated the myth that my padded curves were the bane of his existence, it was me who bought right into it.
"When I walk into a room I want everyone to think I'm with a beautiful woman," he said one day.
I stared at him, then into the mirror. My hair, through the miracle of dye and highlights, was the same ash blonde it had always been when we met as college freshmen, twenty years before. It was shoulder length and scattered with layers. My skin was shades paler than his, and without blemish save a few freckles from the days before sunscreen was part of a daily ritual. My eyes were round and blue, sometimes green, and the same eyes I'd been complimented on as far back as I could remember. And then, I looked down.
It took sixteen months of therapy for me to understand in one second, that he carried the weight of my hips more than I did.
"You want people to think you're walking into a room with a beautiful woman?" He nodded. "They do," I said. I realized then that losing weight would not add fat to the marriage.
When I became a divorced and dating mom in this age of instant first impressions and delete-able acquaintances, I wasn't naïve enough to think that looks didn't matter. But by then I was secure enough to know that the package I came in was merely that -- a package. I adopted a take-it or leave-it attitude to which I remain steadfast.
I didn't change my looks during the process of becoming single; I changed the way I looked at myself.
Only then did I see my true reflection.