I’m wearing the t-shirt from the last 10K I ran, and it’s 2008 but the giant green numbers on the shirt say 1990. And the pants I’m running in are yoga pants that have all the perk of a spent condom, having stretched and collapsed with me through two pregnancies. The college women running by me, although I still expect some sisterhood, are looking at me like 1990? And the runners who really hold my gaze like comrades, like, I know who you are and what you’re doing? They are old. My pelvis makes a blunt snapping sound every few steps, as though it’s about to fold in half.
I remember so distinctly being 18 and peeling off this same t-shirt in my dorm room after a run. That room smelled like old straw and my roommate’s hair conditioner and hazelnut coffee. I remember looking down at my body and thinking I am a woman now. Look at this body—I am lithe and awesome. Why am I just now noticing how beautiful I am?
Then, I was always under the eyes of that boyfriend. My love for him seemed singular. It was as singular as anyone’s love for her 18-year-old boyfriend, and as wrong-headed. But I can’t keep from being fond and teary remembering it. It’s what taught me to love my hips, my breasts. It was the first time I felt exactly the same size as my skin.
All of a sudden I’m not carrying a two-pound Walkman blaring Crowded House; I’ve got an iPod Shuffle tucked into my bra strap and I’m getting weepy over Jerry Springer’s lost dreams. The skin of my stomach actually hangs down a little bit over my waistband.
And all of a sudden the person I lie next to is a man whose love throws that age-18 romance up as the strange, giddy shadow of a thing it really was. We are swimming in the ocean together, we two, all the days we’ve had together buoying us. He knows about my stomach. We have seen each other ugly. We have looked together at the most beautiful things on earth.
I am so much braver now. I can see so much better. I have amazing biceps from three straight years of carrying giant babies. I know better what to say, and what to be quiet about, and how to stay powerful doing both. God, look at me! Look at me, huffing my way through twelve-minute miles, ridiculous saggy boobs and all. Look at me! Now I am a woman.
Random note: Remember the post getupgrrl wrote one time about running? She was emerging from a miserable many months, and she wrote about the feeling of being ready to run again, setting her shoes by the door. Not strong again yet, but ready to get there. Remember getupgrrl? This is one of my least favorite things about blogging: people can write and write and write and then disappear. I know about her running shoes and how the sky looked to her on the worst day of her life. And now where is she? It doesn’t seem right.