I don’t have the wit, charm, humor, or sultriness of my former blogger self, which makes sense because I don’t have any of those qualities in my real life self either. Maybe it’s a symptom of being in a relationship or maybe it’s because I don’t have time to be anything but me, plain and simple. It takes effort for me to appear awesome, and lately I just don’t have the energy to expend on awesomeness – which is a shame because I used to be awesome at being awesome.
Ever since having Riley, I don’t have the body I used to have. In some ways, my body is better (I have a more pronounced hourglass figure), but for the most part, I look in the mirror and see flab. Maybe it’s like that episode of Doug where he gains weight, goes on a diet, and realizes that his former self wasn’t as thin as he’d imagined in the first place. My friends in New York tell me that I look just like my pre-baby self, if not better. But my family here in the Philippines? Everytime a male relative sees me, one of the first things they do is comment on the weight I’ve gained. Um, hello? Do you see this baby I’m holding? I don’t know if you’ve heard, but storks don’t really deliver em.
I get it: male chauvinism is as much a part of the Filipino culture as bad films and worse TV. It doesn’t help matters that the last time I was here, I was 15 and model-slim. The tropical heat had melted away many of the curves that I’d been proud to have in the states, and damn, did I make an impression. People would gawk at me in the street as if I was a celebrity, and a group of twenty-something men took to following me – even going to far as spending the night outside of my grandmother’s house (where I’d been staying), getting drunk, and serenading me with love songs. Back then, I’d perfectly fit the physical ideal of a Filipino woman: tall, lean, with just enough softness. Now, I’m all curves.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my body. I realize that it’s the only one that I’ll ever have and that it’s done well for me so far. But the changes my body has experienced since pregnancy – smaller breasts, bigger thighs, vanished butt, larger gut – well, let’s just say that having a more accentuated hourglass figure just doesn’t make up for all of that.
I’m planning to join a gym as soon as we hire a nanny, and to start a fitness regimen today. I tell myself that I’m doing it because I want to be healthier, because I want my old energy and pep and endurance. But deep down, I’m pretty sure it’s because I cringe every time I realize that the only sizes of clothes that fit me in the Philippines are large and extra large. (I cringe despite the fact that I’m 5’6″ and the average Filipina is somewhere closer to 5’2″.) Somewhere deep inside my bones, I know that I’m going to cut back on calories because I like the positive attention I used to get, because I hate the fact that all of my male relatives make comments about my bigger appearance, because I want some semblance of sexiness and the American truism of “You’re only as young/ sexy/attractive as you feel” simply doesn’t hold water on this tropical island.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to tap into my storage of sexiness. Maybe I’m just worn ragged by so many changes happening all at once. Maybe it doesn’t matter what my motivation for getting fit is – just as long as I do it. I’m not sure what any of the answers are anymore.
And that’s another thing I’ve lost: my sixth sense. It used to be, I could read all the situations I was a party to, all the people I encountered, everything. It used to be that I had a preternatural gift for knowing things. I would feel in the pit of my stomach when something was about to go well, or wrong. I knew what alterations to the atmosphere had to be made to get things in my favor. And now… I just don’t have that gift.
I’m not sure when I lost it, but I have a feeling that it was a long time coming. I’ve spent a great deal of time overcoming my misanthropic urges to lie and manipulate, and it felt like a natural step to get rid of the trait that allowed me to do both of these things so well. At first it was hard for me to ignore the small social cues that could be used to form a situation in my favor. But then it became second nature to be oblivious. Now there are times when I’ll have the distinct impression that I’ve missed something crucial, but I’ll have no idea what it might be and I’m too busy to care.
I love the fact that this new me is so simple, so pure, but I wonder if I’ll ever be able to retrieve my talent for just knowing. I feel like my artistic talents are lacking now that my fingers are combing Riley’s hair and not sitting on the pulse of society. But the pragmatic decisions I’ve made as of late – to venture overseas to learn more about my heritage, to become a nurse and be able to pay my bills while helping people – I’m pretty sure this person would not exist if I still had my head in the clouds and my feet constantly wandering whatever place last piqued my interest.
I hope that I’ll adjust to my surroundings and these gifts of mine can be re-calibrated so that I can notice every change and yet make sensible decisions. You’d think that one would naturally follow the other, but alas it is not so in my case.
Maybe I’ve been deliberately dismissing these cues because I’m afraid of being the person I was before: not just cunning, but also popular, trusted, successful, well-liked – even loved. Maybe I’m afraid that if I somehow manage to strike a balance between this alpha personality and my new warm, altruistic, and maternal self, I’ll achieve a status of being that surpasses everything I’ve ever experienced. And this person, this person who is so close to perfection, she might be altogether different from the plans I’ve made. She may lose touch with people I love. She may decide she’s better off without Rob. She might even realize that she no longer belongs in the greatest city on Earth, New York.
These possibilities scare the shit out of me, so I try my best to keep myself ignorant of my natural inclination to be introspective. If only for the sake of everything I know, everything I love, everything I am.
I know that there’s no use fighting what’s in me. Time has a way of conspiring with destiny in order to reveal the latter, whether I like it or not. But now, as I go about fulfilling mundane tasks – registering for classes, clothes shopping, buying household items and organizing my family’s belongings – all of these fateful conclusions are working themselves out in the safety of my subconscious and my writing.