I drew a self-portrait the other day, a pretty good one if I do say so myself. I made it with colored pencils and gave myself red shadows, bright green eyes (they’re actually hazel, but I don’t have that color in a pencil), and violet-grey hair. I think you can tell it’s me, especially the way my lower lip is a lot bigger than my upper lip and how my hair sticks up on one side. I showed it to Preston and said, “I know it’s impossible to know what one’s self looks like, but I think this looks kinda like me.” He pondered it, and said tentatively, “Ya, it resembles you.”
I had already posted the drawing on Facebook, so I knew a lot of people felt that it looked like me. To Preston, I said, “You know me too well to know what I look like.”
A few years ago, Preston was browsing the internet and got on to one of those sites where one popup after another flashes up too fast for you to close them before the next one. (Or possibly, he was just surfing porn sites…whichever.) One of the windows flashed up with a hot 20-something girl, curvy and posing for a self-shot with her camera phone in the bathroom mirror. I wasn’t home at the time, but Preston saved this picture to show me later. “I wanted to show you this because it looks just like you,” he said. “I was even confused for a second why a picture of you was flashing up on my screen.” At the time, I was 32 years old and a solid 50 pounds over my comfortable weight. I’ve always been nicely curvy and I carry weight well, but I can guarantee you that I did not look like a 20-something curvy amateur porn model. I laughed and told Preston that if that’s what he sees when he looks at me, I wasn’t going to try to talk him out of it.
That girl probably looked something like what I looked like when we first met (when I was a curvy 20-something), but that’s not what I look like now. It’s the beauty and the curse of a long-standing relationship: you carry with you into the present everything you’ve ever known about a person. I know how Preston’s hair looks in dozens of tiny braids hanging down past his elbows, even though it’s now thinning and short and reduced to a few wild curls. He knows how I look waving to him from the top of a 100-foot cliff, having climbed there while he stood at the base holding my safety rope. He can picture that even though I haven’t climbed above head height in 10 years. I don’t love him solely for who he is now, but for who he was and for the person that I was. I love him partly for the way that I get to continue being that person, the one who looks like a porn actress and climbs like a spider because he still sees that in me.
If you’d like, to read more of my writing, you can! You can read my book of essays about being a nature-based woman, Breathing Underwater, on any Kindle, laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.