Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palette
August 14, 2008
“Is it hard doing this kind of yoga when you’re pregnant?” a woman asked me after class the other day.
I decided I definitely must have misunderstood her. “What!?” I cried, staring hard enough to make it clear that if she took one step toward me, even one, I would punch her in the throat with the heel of my hand and kill her instantly.
She demurred. “I mean, is hard to mop the floor after you’re done teaching?”
God, that was the best she could do? “No, not really,” I said, smiled, and walked away with my mop and my bucket.
I should explain that this has happened to me not once, but several times before. I should also probably mention that I have never, ever been pregnant, not even for five minutes. If anything, like most women I have spent most of my life striving to be thin, and I’ve been thin for about 10 percent of it. The other little piece of irony is that I have spent my entire life looking pregnant but never actually had anything in the belly other than my last meal. Go figure.
I’ll admit that I’ve put on a little weight recently. It’s just that over the last few months I decided to just be myself. I have always said that if I am a little bit chubby and my room is a mess, it’s a sign that all is well in my life. It’s when I get super skinny and turn into a neat freak that something is terribly wrong. I am the queen of the revenge diet, usually pushing my starvation threshold to make whatever guy broke my heart last suffer when he sees me strutting by Zele in my size 2 whatevers. But guess what.
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It never works.
“You look good when you got a little chub-chub going on,” my brother said on his last visit. “I like you better with a fat face. You look younger.”
“Thanks,” I said, wondering how it is that my mother and brother have mastered the art of wrapping a compliment in an insult.
So I decided to go with it. As long as I took care of myself, I decided, I might as well stop this futile battle of the bulge and just be the chubby kid I’ve always been. Beauty comes from the inside, I told myself. When I am truly happy, it shows. That’s when I’m at my best.
For a while, it was working. People were telling me I looked good. That I look young.
That I look happy. I was smug. I knew a secret no one else did. Look at all those shallow people, wasting their time, I thought. All they needed was a little confidence.
“You’re going to wake up one day and freak out,” my mom said on the phone the other day. “You’re going to come crying to me, asking me how you got so fat!” Like I said, her and my brother both have this amazing skill, and they both execute it so effortlessly.
As if on cue, the very next day, that woman came back into the yoga studio and said,
“You’ve lost so much of the baby weight!” as if we should celebrate this amazing accomplishment together.
“I remember you,” I said. “I’m not pregnant and I never was.”
She was horrified and let me know, with the gaped open mouth, hand over the gaped open mouth reaction that just makes it worse.
Of course everyone heard the story and wanted to offer me their condolences.
“I heard what happened and I’m soooo sorry, oooh my god! That is horrible,” they’d say. “I’m sure she was confusing you with someone else,” they’d explain. They’d offer all these ridiculous explanations. All I wanted to do was grab them by the shoulders and say, “Jesus Christ, the woman isn’t blind! We weren’t talking on the phone,” but I didn’t.
I tried not to let it bother me, but it did. I didn’t eat for the rest of the day. I did retail therapy, but I only bought things I knew would fit (a hat and a cheap necklace). I had my eyebrows waxed and my eyelashes tinted. (Though I would like to take this opportunity to say to all you cosmologists: Do NOT try to upsell me by saying things like, “what do you do for the hair on your chin and upper lip?” or “you could really use a microdermabraision facial,” because next time I will seriously just sit up and slap you).
Then on Sunday I was lucky enough to get a free massage at The Aspen Club for a trade job I’m doing from a guy who is one of those therapists with a capital “t.” He knows all those fancy raking techniques and haiku and whatever it’s called.
He immediately gravitates to my midsection and starts poking around in my mid-spine. Ahh, I love getting rubbed, I think to myself.
“You’re very tight here, but flexible everywhere else. This is your third shakra,” he said in that soothing therapist’s voice, something between a whisper and a normal tone, the way you might talk to someone who is lying in bed next to you.
“That’s your digestion and your self-image,” he said.
“FIX IT!” I wanted to scream. “FIX IT RIGHT NOW!” But instead I say, “Really?” figuring he’d take care of the rest.
He flipped me over on my back and did all this crazy Chinese voodoo meridian stuff to me, pressing on various points around my (now famous) belly and making these weird buzzing sounds.
He kept asking me what I felt here and what I felt there, but other than a few gas bubbles I wasn’t sure what I felt.
All I could do was give him a long, pregnant pause.
“I guess I feel OK,” is all I said.
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