belly

I have a belt.

I moved forward in the TSA line with caution, confused because the rules had changed since the last time I traveled. At the back of the line, a friendly officer had given us the lowdown: You can keep your shoes on unless you think they will set off the metal detector. If you have a belt, you might want to remove it.

This is my belt.

This is my belt.

I paused just before I reached the conveyor belt. I had a laptop to unpack from my carry-on, but there were none of the usual plastic bins. The officer manning the x-ray stood there waiting for me. “Just leave your laptop in there,” he said. He was gruff.

He hung onto a mid-sized plastic bowl for jewelry. I looked at it. “I have a belt,” I told him. “Good for you,” he answered. My throat made a tiny noise of hesitation. “Let me see it,” he said, throwing me a bone. Flustered, I raised my shirt.

Just above my belt sits my pouch of a belly, totally white and totally stretched out, like a deflated balloon. I could see it. He could see it. I had raised my shirt too high. I took off my belt and placed it in the bowl, avoiding eye contact.

On the other side of the metal detector, I looked at no one as I gathered my suitcase and my carry-on. The belt came through last. As I strung it through the loops, I tracked all the other bodies in my vicinity, careful this time not to lift my shirt too high.

Once I put myself back together–my bag strapped across my shoulder, my suitcase rolling behind me–I had a small revelation: that wasn’t my fault. I noted that my automatic reaction was to assume that somehow “I have a belt,” was an incredibly stupid thing to say, that my choice of words had plunged me into an unavoidable sequence of shaming events, and I was being punished by someone far smarter than me.

But he was just a snarky TSA guy trying to make his job more interesting.  He would have found a way to tease me no matter what I said. And if my flash of belly embarrassed him, then good.

Note to self: not everything is personal.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

Want to hear something funny?

I wrote an essay on Symbiosis, Time, and Family that ran in Mutha Magazine today. Last week, the editor asked me to send some pictures to illustrate the essay, and so I began scrolling through all my photographs from the last year or so.

I had a bit of a dilemma. I wanted to choose the best photos, but I felt conflicted about my family’s privacy. For one thing, my partner Kellie hates nearly every photo of herself, with a vehemence most of us reserve for only the worst of the worst—photos where our eyes are closed and mouths are open. Tag her in a semi-flattering picture on Facebook and you will be subject to her wrath. I didn’t think she’d appreciate having her face featured on a website. And then there are my kids. I’m not opposed to sharing photos of them, but sometimes I worry about leaving a trail of their faces all over the internet.

And so, I settled on two photos that I thought captured something about our family without featuring our faces. In the end, I liked it that way. My hope was that the photographs would compliment the writing, rather than broadcasting: and this is what we look like.

So I was startled today when I viewed my piece online and there, in the middle of the page, was my naked belly.  I’ll  share it here too because, you know, why be shy now?

IMG_1972

Um, how did I miss that? I even wondered for a moment if I had accidentally attached the wrong photo, or if the editors had somehow magically un-cropped something I had altered long ago, but no. This is the photo I chose. I was so busy looking at wasn’t there, I didn’t notice what was there. If you asked me which am I more self-conscious about, my face of my post-partum belly, well, you can probably guess what my answer would be. In fact, throughout both of my pregnancies I made a point of not sharing any belly-pics. I liked my growing belly just fine, but I wanted to keep it to myself.

Another thing: You can see my son’s umbilical cord pressed between my left arm and my belly. I hadn’t noticed that either. In fact I had nearly forgotten that when I held him for the first time, he was still tethered to me by that thick blue rope. It only lasted a minute, and then he was released.