Thursday, October 15, 2015


: characterized by malformation

 Over the past fifteen years, my body has continually betrayed me.  Whether I gain or lose weight, for example, my buddha belly is always present. And for about a year now, I've been plagued with plaque psoriasis, for which I am currently undergoing phototherapy.  And so, over the years, I've begun to obsess about those parts of my body nearly to the point of developing an actual disorder (no, it's not clinical, thank goodness).  And it sort of snuck up on me, or I simply wasn't consciously aware of how bad it had become until a well-intentioned colleague took the lead in a little photo project in our department.

We'll have a bulletin board in the office, she said. With everyone's photo and name, so that our students -- not to mention our new faculty in an ever-growing department -- will know exactly who is who. And I ignored it, and ignored it, for months.  Good fucking god, the last thing I wanted to think about was a photo of myself, complete with buddha belly and red crusty skin lesions. But as the last academic year ended and nothing happened, I thankfully thought it had died an agonizing death ... as it well should. Whew! Dodged that freaking bullet, eh.

But this fall, it reared it's ugly head all over again, with more drive and purpose than before.  The board with photos began to form, with more and more photos added almost daily, it seemed, at least at first. While trying to ignore it, I became more and  more stressed, my though processes moving to foot stomping, fist thumping, what-about-my-rights diatribes within my own head. Then it hit a lull, and I hoped the faculty person had ended her push for photos and the board would stand as-is.

But then I was blindsided one afternoon as I walked near the board, with the colleague pressuring me about my photo, and in front of whomever might be in the front office area. You'd think a psychologist would know that publicly embarrassing an introvert might not be the best idea, I thought -- knowing full well that I had never mentioned my introverted nature to said colleague. So I went out on a limb, stepped close to her, and admitted that I suffered from body dysmorphia, assuming that this would be all a psychologist would need to know. Surely that would stop this process, she would understand, and there'd be no photo.

Instead, there was a seemingly complete lack of understanding, and my name was actually publicly mentioned at a faculty meeting as one who still lacked a photo. And so, yesterday afternoon, I gave in to the pressure and allowed her to take some photos of me with her phone.  It quickly became clear that I wasn't the only one who didn't think I was particularly photogenic (I'm the least photogenic person I've ever met), as she checked the photos, then tried to advise me on posing for the camera (put your hand on your hip, stand sideways, smile bigger), took a few more, then scrolled through them with a sort of frowny, concerned look. She knows as well as I do that there was nothing usable in what she shot, but she didn't want to say anything. So know I have no idea what will show up on that bulletin board; I only know that I'll have to walk by it every. fucking. day.

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