Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


I learned the other day that I drive a subcompact car. This fascinates me because I don’t consider myself a subcompact person, and yet the car is the perfect size. I was average for a long time, although I often considered myself fat. That’s the burden of my white middle-class background. Even my height was average until I left my Dutch-American hometown to go to college. In the midst of people of more shapes and sizes, I was definitely tall. Not outside of one standard deviation tall, but above average to be sure.

In the past few years, I realized that I’m small. My girth, my features, and my shape are all misleading, and I’m usually pegged shorter than I really am. I’m narrow, long, and pointy. I fold easily. I’m flexible. But size and flexibility be damned, I’m not subcompact.

I’m torn about what this means, what this represents, and because I write about it, it must have some kind of meaning. Does this subcompact car mean I’m making a subcompact impact on the environment? Or on humanity? Is my ambition subcompact, too? Can a subcompact person achieve anything beyond sub-standard success?

If you haven’t seen Super Size Me, I recommend it. It’s the movie that made me want nothing to do with anything but broccoli, brown rice, and yoga for a week. It doesn’t take much for me to be goaded into better behavior, but this even goaded McDonald’s to clean up its act. SSM makes the point that we live in a world where everything is big, a luxury, and exists to seduce us into consuming more.

We tried to buy a couch a few weeks ago. Our small living room, built to 1942 proportions (as was the rest of the house, as illustrated by the tininess of the single bathroom), cannot hold a couch longer than seven feet/84 inches. Searching for a petite couch that was a couch and not a loveseat was painful. It was an exercise in futility. House of Sofas was annoying. Art Van was impossible, what with its expansive showroom offering no size context at all, leading us to walk up to couches nine feet long to check the price. Our best bet is the Ethan Allen Tribeca, an expensive couch we hope will last long enough to move into our children’s first house. Our current couch, after all, is a 30-year-old Ethan Allen, which explains why it hasn’t fallen apart even though I climb over the back one of every four times I sit on it.

With my subcompact car, 1942 house, and 79 inch sofa, maybe I shouldn’t work too hard on those last ten pounds I’ve been trying to gain.


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