January 18, 2014

Woman Seeks Thick Skin.

Am I too thin skinned?

I can still remember with crystal clarity, the time I wrongly thought a student in one of my yoga classes was pregnant and cued her as such.

I still feel horrible about it. The fact that I was a nervous new teacher doesn’t mitigate the wince factor one bit.

Once, I accidentally ran over a chipmunk while I was riding my bike, and the sight of the poor creature lying there with his guts hanging out tore my heart to shreds. Every time I pass that spot on the bike path, I whisper  “I’m sorry” to the little guy. That was about nine years ago.

Personal slights are even worse, standing out in my mind like dandelions in a field of lavender.

When I was six, my mom praised another girl at my piano recital lavishly, but barely mentioned me. I was crushed. (Note: she deserved it—I stank).

A woman I waitressed with in New York once told me I had the “opposite of an old soul”, with a cruel glint in her witchy eye. I tried not to cry as I wondered what on earth she meant.

And I’ll never forget when I was told I should be a “plus-sized model” by a photographer who was shooting my skinny model friend. I wished my whole oafish body would evaporate into the floorboards. (At six feet tall, I weighed about 140 lbs—but hey, that’s the modeling world for you.)

It’s stupid, this list of hurts I involuntarily keep, especially when its sister list of good deeds, praise and compliments, is so much longer and more fun to peruse.

But the list lives on.

You would not assume I am this sort of person upon meeting me. I come off as brash, loud and confident—I talk a big game. And I can back it up, but not without breaking into a cold sweat.

I hate confrontation. I’ll pretty much do anything to avoid it. My husband has called me the “B of the A’s” by which he means, I have an A type personality, but only if everyone else around me is a B. Next to another A, I wither.

This is a problematic (though I imagine, common) personality trait for a writer. Writer’s write passionate, often controversial things which pour straight from our own chipmunk guts—if we’re any good that is—and then we release them to the public who can praise, scorn and judge at will. Most times the feedback is good, but occasionally it makes me want to lock myself in a closet with a handle of vodka.

So, I am in search of a thicker skin. I have heard they exist in the plane of “No-Ego”, though as far as I can tell, that may be a myth.

I’m hoping someone out there will hear my plea and get me some hot leads on this rare commodity. (I’ve considered posting on Craig’s List, but can only imagine the sort of responses I’ll get…”Hey girl, I’ve got some skin for ya'”).

Other options include; flaying myself until my skin grows so preternaturally thick I can’t feel anything anymore, dipping myself in an ice water bath each morning and hiding in my bed in a hazmat suit curled up with my dog, lights off.

Or, I could just grow up already.

Sure, sometimes stuff hurts. People can be mean, on purpose or by accident—including me (once again, to my non-pregnant student, I am very sorry). But maybe I can just feel the pain and move on. Maybe, even though my skin is thin, it’s still thick enough.

In lieu of a new birthday suit (though as I said, I’m still looking for one—all interesting trades considered), I suppose I’ll have to put on my big girl panties and grit my teeth.

Who knows, maybe this thin skin of mine is really a blessing. After all, as much pain as I’ve had to feel, haven’t I felt an even greater amount of love? And if I didn’t feel the pain, would the love be as exquisite? Also, a thin skin works two ways—it lets in a lot of stuff, but it also makes it easier to let out. Without it, I couldn’t write, teach and love as I do, and those privileges are certainly worth a little sting now and then.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant archives

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