A mad scientist kidnapped me and dumped my consciousness into someone else’s body.
That’s the only thing I can figure.
This new body of mine moves funny. It’s looser in the hips, as though my top half and my bottom half aren’t hinged together right. I feel it when I walk: Sometimes, I have to pay conscious attention to which direction I’m aiming each leg. If I don’t, my janky hips might just send one leg diagonal left, the other diagonal right, and I’ll look like a puppet that’s had a couple of strings cut. Right before I sprawl flat on my face.
This new body aches in places that have never ached before. Muscles pull tight and strain not because they’re working hard, but because they’re working wrong. They’re compensating and overcompensating, trying to do work that my joints and ligaments used to do. But the joints are too loose now, and the ligaments are too stretched. So other parts of my body are trying to take up the slack. But they weren’t designed for the jobs they’re doing, and their extra effort leaves me more exhausted than I should be.
This new body of mine is softer and rounder in certain places. I wouldn’t mind that so much, except that those softnesses and roundnesses don’t fit into my old body’s clothes. It’s as though someone took all of my old clothes and replaced them with clothing that looks the same, but it’s all a size or two small and cut funny. A woman in my former yoga class once saw my side plank pose and said I looked like a chiseled work of art. Nobody would say that about this new body of mine, even if it did fit into the jeans that used to ride low on my hips.
This new body of mine is ruthless, vicious, vindictive. It reacts differently to my former favorite foods: taste, metabolism, where it chooses to store fat, all is changed. This body’s abdominal connective tissue is stretched and thin, so it can’t hold my organs in place where they should be. Over time and with certain exercises, this is improving — but the going is slow, and this new body mocks me every step of the way.
Related to this, the new body requires clothing I never thought I’d wear. The garment is something like a corset, made to pull my abs together so they can heal. I wear T-shirts over it and men’s dress shirts so that no one will catch a glimpse of the “corset” straps. More and more, I feel like the teenager I once was, hiding inside bulky clothes and hoping no one will look at me. I look forward to cold weather so that I can cover up the straps and my now chubby arms without baking in the Oklahoma heat.
This is how I have to tape my stomach if I want to exercise at all. Even just for walking.
This new body also enjoys waking me in the middle of the night to tell me how uncomfortable it is in the bed my old body luxuriated in. This new body doesn’t like the soft pillow-top mattress; it demands something firmer. But I can’t provide it with a better mattress, so the new body wakes me to whisper complain scream at me via my back and my right side. There’s no position that will alleviate the pain, so I get out of bed and start my day already weary. I hope that in the evening, I’ll have time to soak in a hot tub.
I am trying to acquaint myself with this new body. I am trying to make friends with it. With her. I remind myself that she did something momentous, creating and carrying a tiny and precious life inside of her for the better part of a year. It’s no wonder she’s marked, it’s no wonder that I’ve had to trade my old body for hers. It was inevitable, and in spite of all the headache and backache and heartache, I don’t regret a moment of this transformation.
A friend once told me I seemed unusually comfortable in my own skin, as though my (old) body was but a familiar and welcome extension of who I am on the inside. And I felt those things, and I was glad that others could see so clearly my comfortableness (hard-won after years of teenage and young adult self-deprecation).
But that comfortable, extension-of-me feeling is gone. Now, no matter how I try to make friends with this new body, this other woman’s body that even after a year doesn’t feel like mine yet, ours is a grudging relationship. There’s only so much I can do when she makes it so very clear that she doesn’t like me.
Well, the feeling is mutual. I don’t like her, either. And I want my old body back.