I recently spent 20 minutes designing a new Bitmoji for myself. I shortened my hair and dressed myself in a hoodie, because I’m always cold. I also played around with the shape of my face and eyes, pretending I observe such things.
When I was finished, I texted my new doppelganger to the husband. Thirty seconds later, he called out from the other room, “I hate your new Bitmoji.” What?
“How can you hate it? It looks just like me!”
“I liked the old one.”
“No! This one is so much more me!”
“Change it back.”
“I want it to be more glamorous.”
This stopped me short. Had he ever even met me?
“You want me to be more glamorous? How can you want me to be more glamorous?”
“I want your Bitmoji to be more glamorous.”
“Why would you want my Bitmoji to be more glamorous if you didn’t want me to be more glamorous?”
“I just do.”
This exchange left me feeling a little exasperated. I wanted to rant about unreasonable expectations of women and how I AM WHO I AM and how underwire bras = oppression, but honestly, the husband asks so little of me, and he never criticizes my appearance except sometimes when he reminds me to shower, and frankly that’s more of a favor. So I decided to think about this.
Listen. As part of my intention to be more me, I resolved to spend more time outside. I aim for two hours each day, but set my firm goal at one hour. And this is not enough, of course. My dream would be to practically live outside – for my house to be a smallish wide open space with lots of windows, and a giant screen porch attached. The screen porch would be where I spend all of my time. I’m not terribly far off; our house is a smallish wide open space with insufficient windows and lighting and no screen porch. But I’m saving up for one.
I began counting my accumulated outside time, and found myself slowing down. The trip to the mailbox became a walk from the front door to the mailbox to the back door. When I walk the dogs, I let them sniff as much as they want. I sit outside in the driveway with my neighbor. My power walks went from two miles to four to six. Right now, I’m outside writing, and just paused to watch a single leaf spin slowly from its perch of life to its natural death.
When the mosquitos aren’t bad, I nap outside on the patio when no one is blowing a goddamn murder-inciting leaf-blower nearby. Unless it’s too dark or stormy, I shower outside in my glorious hot/cold enclosed shower, which honestly feels like a gift from the heavens. It was the only part of this house I insisted upon including. Like, okay, no garage, no tankless hot water system, no automatic sprinklers, no vaulted sunlit ceilings, but build me a place to be naked outdoors or I’m out. My outdoor shower is the size of a walk-in closet, and from inside its corrugated tin walls I can see the branches of oak trees stretched upwards and swaying in the breeze. At night I watch clouds sailing past the moon. Sometimes I see hawks and owls swoop among the branches.
I used to be kind of glamorous. I wore diamonds and gold and expensive clothes. I owned a pair of Cole-Haan patent leather mules with a leopard print. My hairdresser told me if I wore them more often they’d change my life.
But I think sometimes we cloak ourselves in layers as we mature. We adapt to our surroundings, which can be a good thing, but our surroundings keep changing, and so we continue to morph and expand, piling on those layers until one day, we’re so far buried inside that we’re not sure who we are.
Not so long ago, I started shedding the layers, peeling back those carefully constructed facades. It has been a long, hard, molting process, a resettling of myself inside my native skin. Short hair and no makeup. The sinewy length of my thigh, the well-earned wrinkles beneath my brow. Functional clothes and comfortable shoes. I can see how that combo would make for an iffy Bitmoji, and perhaps an embarrassing way to describe one’s wife: Oh, my wife? Well, she dresses like a farmhand and I have to remind her to shower.
“I’m a free spirit who never had the balls to be free,” writes Cheryl Strayed in her memoir Wild. Is that what has kept me from me? Mere fear? I don’t know. It seems more like complacency, and the simple ease of covering myself in the wraps handed to me.
But I’m different, older, wiser, and the husband understands. He loves me. He loves me, and possibly knew who I was before I did. I wish I could change my Bitmoji back to the way he wants it, just to do something nice for him, but I can’t. I hardly remember what that girl looked like, anyway.