May 13, 2007

Some days I don't want to be seen. If I feel fat and disgusting and for some reason I have to leave the house, I'll walk really fast to wherever I need to get, head down, eyes on the pavement. Waiting for the light to change is an endurance test. I'm at risk. Exposed and vulnerable. Someone could see me from across the street or walk by ?as I'm standing there. Stuck.

When I don't look good and I run into someone, I could tell them that I just won the Nobel prize for literature, but I know that as soon as they walk away the only thing they'd be thinking about is how I've gone downhill.

Sometimes, to make myself feel better, I'll think of a random celebrity. Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance. I've seen pictures of her in tracksuit bottoms, no make-up, hair unbrushed, and I can tell she's been caught on a day when she's not wanting to be seen. I empathise because the last thing I'd want is someone taking my photograph and having it end up in a magazine for all the world to see. But the empathy doesn't last long. Because I only wish I looked like her on her worst day. And if she's unhappy about it, she can always go home to her town house and soak in a tub of money.

The only thing worse than running into someone when I don't want to be seen is being seen by someone without knowing it. The other day, I got home and there was a message on my answering machine from a friend. He's someone I used to go out with and hadn't seen in a while. "I saw you," he said, "on 14th Street. I didn't say hello."

Hang on. If you see someone and avoid saying hello, you don't call them afterwards to tell them. What good does that do? Essentially, he's saying: "I saw you, you didn't see me, I win."

I called him back. "Why didn't you say hello?" I asked. He told me he was running late for an appointment. Sure he was. But I had a more important issue to raise. I had a horrible feeling he saw me on the way back from the gym. So I asked: "What was I wearing?"

He told me I was wearing a sweatshirt, and I felt myself sinking. There's just something so wrong ?about being seen on the way back from the gym, looking sweaty and gross, ?and then finding out about it. So I ?did the only rational thing I could ?think of. I lied. "That wasn't me," I said.

He was silent. "Really? It ?looked just like you."

Nope, I said. I don't think so. "Really?" he repeated. "You weren't wearing a sweatshirt and race-walking on 14th Street yesterday?"

Race-walking? Now I sounded ?like someone who goes to a Jazzercize class in Florida. I told him I might ?have been on 14th Street and I ?might have been wearing a sweatshirt, but I certainly wasn't race-walking.

"Really?" he said, for the third time, "Are you sure?" I replied: "Yes. I'm sure." Now I was getting annoyed. He sounded like he didn't believe me. So what if I was lying? He didn't know that.

"Where were you?" I asked. He ?told me he was across the street. ?I pointed out that if he was across the street, it's not as though he got a good look. After a few minutes of convincing him that it was a case of mistaken identity, he finally relented. Then ?he said: "Whoever it was, she looked pretty. But I guess it wasn't you."