MY BIRTHDAY SUIT
By: Lauren Anderson
It’s that time of the year again. In a few days it will be my birthday. I will have made another orbit around the sun.
I’ve always been one of those annoying people that absolutely love my birthday. Maybe it’s the springtime, maybe it’s being spoiled as a kid, but I can’t help it! I love my birthday, and I love this time of year. Spring always brings me a renewed feeling of hope. Of beginning. And that feeling, matched with a clean slate that a new birthday provides– sign me up.
I thought the feeling would wane over the years, but it hasn’t. My excitement has not decreased in power or intensity, but I have become more reflective. No, I don’t mean I glow-in-the-dark now, although that would be awesome. I mean every year I take more and more time to think about the life behind me, and the life ahead (universe willing), and just what it all means.
When I was seven I had my golden birthday. That’s the birthday year that matches the date you were born. My step dad bought me a huge bouquet of tulips, and I thought I was so fancy and grown up! I also remember that he said, “Just think, you’ll never be six again!”
He said this to make me feel excited. That I was growing up into a big kid, and soon I could do big kid stuff! But it backfired, and I started to cry. What do yo mean I’ll never be six again? In all the pictures from that birthday, I look more sullen than a teenage vampire.
In my kid brain, I couldn’t fathom NEVER being able to do or be something again. When I was a kid, I thought that I was invincible, and that things will always be the way they are. It was my first real round with existential crisis, and in hindsight it’s both hilarious and right on brand I had it that early in my life.
In a sense, it was also my first real round with loss. Having to say goodbye to something forever whether it’s a year of my life, the house I grew up in, or a loved one–has never been easy. Obviously. And in the midst of any celebration, I am always aware on some level, that I am also saying goodbye.
For every new job I take, there is an old job I am saying goodbye to. For every new apartment I move into, there is an old place I’ll never live again. Thankfully, making a new friend doesn’t usually require us to leave the old ones behind– our hearts have the capacity to hold a lot of people in there. But every new thing needs room, so other things/feelings/priorities get shifted.
But when you lose a person and you know the goodbye is forever– well, that’s something else entirely isn’t it? I’ve talked about this a lot before, but it bares repeating. I think this is a pain we carry with us. I think the burden of carrying that weight helps shape who we are. I often think of it as a toll that I must pay for loving someone, and I don’t know about you all, but I’m happy to do it. Because it means I got the chance to love at all.
But even if the changes are great, and for the best, and I never want to look back, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t take at least a second to reflect on what had to happen to get me to where I am.
Luckily, my body is an excellent road map for the life I’ve lived. Storing pain and triumph in every line and crinkle. Each scar and new freckle is like a historian, making a mark to show the passing of time.
I was washing my hands the other day, and mid-lather I noticed a new line that showed up on my palm. People that do palmistry say your whole life will show up on your hands. I don’t know how to read palms, so I’m not sure if it’s a life line, a love line, or just dry skin. Either way it’s there now. And no amount of fancy lotion will make it go away.
And that’s just the hands.
There’s also the scar on my back from when I fell off the garage roof as a kid. There’s a chunk of my leg that never grew back the same after a backstage accident gave me stitches in college. There’s a new line on my forehead from making big stupid faces for over a decade of doing comedy. There is a streak of white hair that showed up at my temple when my brother died.
And then there’s other stuff too. There’s the stretch marks on my stomach and chest from gaining and losing weight. There’s a new blue vein that sticks out on the back of my leg that was never there before. There’s a new fold in my arm where a bigger bicep has grown. There are distinct bulges in my calves from where my muscles stick out. Not just when I flex either. They’re always that way now.
Standing in front of the mirror in my birthday suit, I’m reading my body like a Indiana Jones reads a legend etched onto the wall of a cave. Some markings are ancient and sacred. They are part of how I identify my body as my own. Others are new and foreign, and it’s a mystery how they got there. And some of it is just downright vandalism. Like the skin tag in my armpit, or the scar on my shoulder I got for popping a zit. (I mean c’mon man!)
There’s also one other thing that showed up on my body, that I never had before. LOVE. It’s subtle, and it’s brand-freaking-new. And some days it’s so faint, it’s hard to see. But it’s there. It showed up one day when I least expected it, and it hasn’t gone away yet. And something tells me, it won’t.
Because like the new line on my palm, I think it’s here to stay. This newfound love etched itself onto my body, and tells the story of a woman who took some time to put her body first for once. After years of hate and regret. And tried her damnedest to love something she thought was unloveable.
Kinda like Beauty and the Beast. (You know, without all the problematic Stockholm syndromey stuff.) Beauty had to show the Beast some kindness. And when the Beast was treated better he changed for the better. And she finally noticed that it was something worthy of her love. In fact, loving was the key!
I wasn’t born with body love, like the mole on my foot. But I’m not sure anyone is. And it wasn’t an accident like that scar on my knee I got from falling off my bike. It’s on purpose. Something I’m working hard for. That I’m proud of. Like the elephant tattoo I got on my 18th birthday. I put it there because it was important, and I’m never getting rid of it because it means too much. And I can’t. But more importantly, I won’t.
And this past year, I’ve worked very hard to make my birthday suit my favorite suit, even if I have no plans of EVER wearing it out in public.
Every new wrinkle, muscle, mole, and scar tells a story. My body tells the story of who I am and who I am becoming. I thought maybe this story was a comedy, or perhaps a mystery? Or maybe it’s great adventure tale?
But it looks like it might turn out to be an epic love story after all.