As you know, I participated in charity fashion show last week. I had mixed feelings about the fashion show part but strong positive feelings about the charity itself. The day started in the afternoon. We met at the venue for the show, practiced walking as well as entering and leaving the stage as a group.

There were about 30 female models and all of us were breast cancer survivors. Many of the women were pretty young. Some were middle aged women who had been diagnosed in their 20’s. Some women were recently diagnosed. One woman was obviously still going through chemotherapy. They were all friendly and appeared to have a good time. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the chance to meet some new people, a number of whom live in my neighborhood.

I am a bit of a ham socially, if I tell the absolute truth. I also enjoy public speaking and miss making research presentations at conferences. I am not the smoothest orator. As an “out loud thinker” I tend to revise what I am saying on the fly, sometimes mid word. And sometimes I repeat myself. This is also the way I converse. Somehow I nonetheless manage to communicate well. And even when I get nervous when public speaking, I usually get over it easily by saying something funny. Once I get an audience to laugh, it is much much easier to present because the presentation is so much more like an interpersonal exchange when people are paying attention.

But walking in front of people and trying to look pretty? That’s a bit intimidating. I love beautiful clothes. But I like what I am wearing to be a garnish rather than the main entree. I thought about my wedding and how incredibly self-conscious I felt to have all eyes on me.

I have done a lot of work to feel more comfortable with my own body, imperfections and all. And the challenge of this fashion show was not lost on me. This chance to challenge myself was one of the reasons I agreed to do it. Not the main reason, but a small reason. I knew I could do it if I adopted the right frame of mind and did my job.

I am pretty good at doing an assigned job even if I don’t like it or would never do it under other circumstances. I remember the first time I went fishing and actually caught something. I was 12 years-old and my family had gone to the trout farm a couple of miles away. This is where I learned that there is a fish food called, “Purina Trout Chow”. It’s pretty easy to catch a fish at a trout farm, especially using trout chow as bait. I am a sensitive person by nature. When I caught a fish and needed to kill it? I started crying, not a little but a lot. I was upset. My mom said, “But Jesus was a fisherman.” My reply? “Then Jesus was mean!”

Eight years later I was working at a daycare. We took the kids on a field trip to the very same trout farm! But I was an adult who was supposed to be a good role model for children. So I helped them bait their hooks, take their fish off of the line, touch the fish guts, etc. I just did my job.

For the fashion show I told myself that I was playing a role of myself minus my unproductive self-consciousness. It was easy to smile because I am a generally happy person with a nice smile. People respond well to it. I planned a couple of “moves” including a goddess-like arm raise to accompany the dress I wore that had a bit of a toga feel to it. The arm raise was inspired by Rupaul so to me, it was funny because Rupaul cracks me up.

I was happy with how I modeled. I smiled, I walked comfortably in heels, I showed off the clothes, and I used a little hip action and a few Vanna White moves, when appropriate. My hair and make up was done professionally and I was wearing pretty clothes that I liked. I felt happy and pretty. The experience also led to some deep reflection about my cancer, my life, and the preciousness of my life.

So all in all, it was a varied and satisfactory experience. Yesterday, I looked at the video my husband took on the night of the fashion show. I didn’t recognize myself. I was shocked by my appearance.

And that was the point at which I forgot my job as a mother. I blurted out, “I look fat!” I said it right in front of my 15 year-old daughter. To my recollection, I had never before made a negative comment about my body in front of my daughter. Reminding me that she really is my daughter, she took me to task for being a bad model of positive body image but she did it in a nice way.  I am really proud of her. In contrast, I was disappointed in myself for not treating myself fairly or with kindness.

I have been putting on weight lately and I went back on Weight Watchers right before I left for New Orleans. And I know that I am back on track. Honestly, I am only about 5-7 pounds overweight. It’s really not a lot. But it’s about 15 pounds more than I was prior to the winter holidays. That’s over a full dress size, well kind of. I usually wear dresses. And over the years, I have become a master at choosing dress styles that accommodate my historically variable weight. When I’m not wearing dresses, I wear spandex work out clothes and spandex is stretchy. It takes me awhile to notice that I’ve gained weight. Oh yeah, I had also stopped weighing myself. And even though I’ve continued to exercise regularly, I was eating more and more.

Realistically, I looked pretty. That was that stupid negative tape in my head that was shocked into a reappearance. But I didn’t look the way I thought I did. And for someone who has a hard time keeping my weight down and further, is supposed to keep my weight down for health reasons, I scared myself a little.

I had mixed feelings prior to the fashion show and I leave it with mixed feelings. As Rupaul says, “You better WORK.” I still have a lot of that to do as I continue to work toward self acceptance.

FYI: This is the goddess pose I copied from Rupaul.

FYI: This is the goddess pose I copied from Rupaul.