The Girl in Her

July 11, 2010

in therapy in session

She did not want to come back the last time she was there.

She wanted to stay home. Home.

When she was there by herself, she was not a mother. She was not a wife. She was herself.

More enticingly, she was her younger self. She was a daughter. She was the much adored and lauded miracle child. The family legend.

The one who would be could have been “The Doctor”. The real kind.

She realized much to her sadness and guilt that she has not been a daughter since 1993 when she left home for graduate school. The first time she went home, she brought her American boyfriend with her.

She stopped being just a daughter to her family. She has never been back by herself ever since.

When she went home by herself, everybody treated her as if she had just left and then returned. They treated her as if she were only 24, how old she was when she left.

Time stopped.

It was disorienting.  A discontium of time and space.

You are here in the U.S. and 24 hours later, you are in a different world. The same skyscrappers. The same modern technologies. Cars. Material goods. Yet different.

Time also reversed. Her family treated her as if she were only 24. She was a daughter again. The unwed daughter. The pearl in their palms.

She looked at her parents who have aged more since she saw them last. She wondered how she could have done this to them. Rid them of their daughter. All these years of separation they seem almost like strangers, yet she remembered. It’s as if life in between simply were not there. She left. She came home. As simple as that.

Now she’s 24.



She has a pretty face. In 3 D. She knows it. Yet nowadays she does not like to look at herself in the pictures. She dares not search for her own face in them. She cannot recognize herself in any of them because the image she has of herself inside her head is different from the face that is staring back at her.

It’s like whenever you hear the playback of a recording of your own voice, you are  startled by the strangeness of it.

Is this really how I sound to other people?

Oh my goodness. I should never open my mouth again.

The girl in her is puzzled by how she could have possibly aged so much.



The girl in her did not know at first that being addressed as “Young lady!”, as in “Now, what would you like, young lady?” and “Bill, this young lady here would like an Amaretto Sour!” is actually a sign that you have passed a certain age threshold. People assume that you ought to be grateful for the subtle compliment.



She gives herself a long, uncomprehending look sometimes when she walks by office buildings with glass walls.

The girl in her is surprised by the unfamiliar physique when she looks in the mirror.

Who is that middle-aged woman? If I feel like a P.Y.T. then who is this matron with thick arms and middle bulge?

The girl in her saw the repulsion in her husband’s eyes. Just for a fleeting second. But too late. She’s seen it. You cannot unsee it.

The girl in her says, with defiance, Wow. It kind of sucks to be you because I am not changing myself for anybody but myself.



The girl in her does not know how to navigate space in real life now that she can no longer be classified as slender as her younger self.

It is as if her spatial sensory has never evolved with how her body has evolved. She keeps on bumping into corners. Door frames.

When she looks at pretty young things, she thinks to herself: Yup. I can look good in that too. Imagining her 18-year-old body in the same polka-dotted sundress.

The girl in her forgets that she no longer enjoys the luxury of youth and therefore is no longer as attractive as she remembers. This is not self pity. This is the truth as told by time.

The girl in her behaves as if she were still young and attractive and therefore she winks and smiles as one would.

Sometimes people see the sparkle.

Sometimes people don’t and are therefore startled by a not-so-slim not-so-young woman carrying herself as a young beautiful woman would.

The girl in her is saddened and disappears when she recognizes the startled look in people’s eyes.



The girl in her never really leaves. She sits by the wing. On a stool next to the stage manager’s, waiting for her cues.



The girl in her sometimes wonder when it will become inappropriate, or whether it will ever, should ever, to swing your arms while walking because you feel happy, or want to fabricate the sensation of happiness.

To look forward to a rainy day so you could walk around holding the umbrella as if it were a sword: palm open and up, with the blade pointing up and the sword against your back, and  envision yourself as a swordswoman, wandering and righting the wrongs in the world.

To dance in the rain.

To breathe deeply in the smell of rain. Fresh-cut grass. And let out a loud Ahhhhhhh——-

To roll down the hill.

To skip.

To be barefoot.

To jump in a puddle.

To say the word, Puddle, her favorite word, out loud for no reason because she likes the sound of it.

To talk to random strangers, and wink at them.

To flirt shamelessly.

To jump up and down while clapping your hands when you are excited.

To take off your shoes and throw them into the tree.

Just because.

To behave as if you had not aged since you turned 18.



This is how she sees herself when she closes her eyes.

This is how she sees herself when her eyes are wide open, as a matter of fact.

Sometimes this is the only thing that feels real.

The girl in her.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

sophie April 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Thanks for being interested in what I have to say. I’d love any additional thoughts.
sophie´s last blog post…We’re not as young as we used to be…


Absence Alternatives April 15, 2011 at 11:02 am

Sophie, thank you so much for sharing your post with me. It was nicely written and yes poetic indeed! You are too humble. Are you by any chance Chinese too?! 😉

Thank you again for that great quote from Doris Lessing “The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” I truly love it.

p.s. I believe my comment has been sent straight to spam jail…. again. Sigh. WP hates me lately.


sophie April 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm

This my first visit here, and I read a number of your posts. Your words are beautiful and moving. I turn 46 next month, and I carry far too many pounds with me. However, in my mind I am still the striking, slender 26 year old. I’m okay with that. You have turned up more thoughts in my mind, but I will expound on them in my own place. Thanks for the challenge.


Absence Alternatives April 11, 2011 at 12:50 am

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting and for the very kind words. I would love to be able to read when you have a chance to put your thoughts into words. I hope you won’t mind sending me the link when your post is published.


Robin July 19, 2010 at 11:39 am

Beautiful post!
Robin´s last blog post…My High Standards


Average Girl July 15, 2010 at 5:46 am

I think we all know where you’re coming from, and you’ve said it wonderfully. The girl never vanishes — she just becomes wiser and more beautiful with confidence. Such a talented writer and mult-faceted being could never be without sparkle. Lovely post, and Happy belated~


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Thank you!!


Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla July 15, 2010 at 12:09 am

Love, love, love this! The montage of images, the way that things flit across our brain, and the way that we seem to freeze inside ourselves at a certain age that epitomized our ideal selves. I remember mine well: 29, newly divorced, newly thin, newly pretty after major jaw surgery.

I’ve been all caught up with my mom being 80 and how she’s on the decline but I never think of myself as aging. I get caught up in this whole “fifty and fabulous” thing. But the other day I just looked in the mirror and thought, “Who in the hell do you think you’re fooling? Fifty is fifty.” And then I thought about what it must be like for my mother to look at all her little girls now over the peak and onto the other side, aging, just like her.
Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla´s last blog post…Counting Sheep


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Me too! I often wonder how my mom feels. In Chinese culture, children are not supposed to say they are old in front of their parents. I guess as a rule of thumb, this is a simple courtesy? My mom loves to make me feel old and claim that she is younger in spirits than I am… Oy. That is another post waiting to be written… *sigh*


Cold Spaghetti July 14, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Happy beautiful birthday.


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Thank you!

They finally capped the well today! Yeah!!!! The hard work continues… Hope your spirits are a bit higher because of the good news.


Jane July 14, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I love all versions of you! Every single one of them!
Jane´s last blog post…For My Sweet Adia – Wherever You Are


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

You also like the “Here’s Jonny!” one??!! 😉

Thanks, sweetie. xxoo


Naptimewriting July 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm

I think this is why we stop looking in building windows as we grow older…to maintain the 24 inside.
This is a lovely post. Thank you.
Naptimewriting´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Thank YOU!


secret agent woman July 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm

That is really lovely. There is some interesting research on how most girls feel daring and free and competent until adolescence. I think it is so important that we remember who we are.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…So much for the drought


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for letting me know that such a research exists!


Jessica July 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I am…trying…to become more comfortable with ME…who I am…and not look to “before” (whenever I decide that is at any given point). Before is gone. Now is what’s important.

It’s what I’m learning…I’m slightly behind…


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:31 pm

You are strong. and though you may not know it or agree, imo, you have a great sense of yourself, it may not be conventional, but I have seen your prose and someone who can write so beautifully has got to be able to find herself. Sometimes selves. I do consider my self in multiple forms. We are multi-faceted. Yes we are!


Jen @ NathanRising July 14, 2010 at 11:11 am

Wow, that’s such a beautifully written post. I agree with the other commenters… you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. Be who you truly are on the inside. If that means your inner self is forever age 18, then that’s ok! Becuase that’s who you are, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Oh yeah. I’m SO TOTALLY GLAD that I am not the only one out there who forgets how fat she has gotten and constantly bumps into things! Sounds like a silly thing to be grateful for, but I thought I was going nuts lol!
Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog post…Food flinger


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm

No, you are definitely not crazy. I am happy to know too I am not the only one!


Mary Lee July 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I love that picture of you… love your smile… can imagine your laughter. The woman you have become is beautiful and awesome. Believe it.

There is no senior discount I don’t qualify for, but I can still see some of the girl I was when I look in the mirror. As many places as she looked for herself, I’m surprised she found her way.

North Carolina hugs, Girlfriend!
Mary Lee´s last blog post…What’s Your Sign


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm

“As many places as she looked for herself, I’m surprised she found her way.” I love this. Thank you!

This is Day 5 in the OBX. We have been coming here for several years now. I am still not used to being the only non-white person almost everywhere I turn. Except when we picked up food from the local Chinese joint, and finally this year, in addition to the young Eastern Europeans they “imported” to work at the local stores during the summer, we also saw a few Asian-looking faces. I often wish that you were here. It would be nice to see a friendly face. 🙂


jen July 13, 2010 at 6:47 am

Happy Birthday!
I am very hard on myself, and not happy about the birthday this year. I want to be younger, I want to go back to when I was carefree like this again. I have let myself become fearful and bitter and worry too much…I may look younger than I am but I feel old and scarred and not much fun anymore. perhaps I can change that this year! I know it is all attitude and confidence that keep us young! But it’s hard to break the bad habits built up after many years of self abuse and age….ya know?
great post!


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Thank you! I am grateful and feel blessed that the Interweb has offered me such a wonderful support group! 🙂


Meg at the Members Lounge July 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm

My friend Nance from Mature Landscaping sent me your way this afternoon; and I’m so glad she did. Your post was spot on; both humorous and poignant, and reminding me oh so much of myself. Very nicely done!


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting! Thanks for the kind words!


Jennifer July 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

First: Happy Birthday yesterday. This post’s proximity to yesterday is not surprising. Perhaps birthdays do this to us. I would say to the girl in there….aging is living. Learning to accept our aging is always a unique journey. Do what makes you happy….when you are happy….you and she are at peace, together. That is where we are most ourselves. **hugs**
Jennifer´s last blog post…Which Rack


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

The pursuit of happiness. It’s in the constitution too! 🙂


magpie July 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

Oh yeah. Yes.
I remember the first time I spent any time with my SIL without either her husband or kids around. I liked her so much better alone; the person she was without them was far more interesting than the person she was with them. Curious.


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

And it’s really unconscious. It’s not like we cannot be ourselves in front my them… does that make sense?


pattypunker July 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

remarkable post! i can totally relate to passing glass office buildings. i can’t believe my face and wonder if i look that old to others. but we have to be defiant. we have to adopt a “been there, done that” attitude. embrace all that we’ve become and experienced. and admire how much more beautiful we are now as women. and we need to not give a fuck anymore what other think. it’s time to like ourselves and not care about the opinions of others. and it’s time to have fun and do all the things we love as fun.

so in august we’re skipping arm-in-arm, throwing our shoes into a tree, flirting shamelessly, winking at random people, and jumping up and down and clapping when we’re excited. and the world will smile at our enthusiasm and thirst for life.

and you’re gorgeous btw. with awesome style. i can’t wait to see that face of yours. i’m going lick it all over.
pattypunker´s last blog post…she’s wicked in all the right ways


Elly Lou July 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I’m totally changing the lyrics to this song now…
Elly Lou´s last blog post…Search Optimization-ish


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm

As Elly would say, *slurp*


Technobabe July 12, 2010 at 9:14 am

You speak for so many of us. The girl in me does go barefoot. I hardly wear shoes. Ever. I look forward to the rain. Just today I went out in the rain, barefoot, walking and enjoying just being.
Technobabe´s last blog post…The Plus Side Of Having A Pet


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

That sounds lovely!


Elly Lou July 12, 2010 at 7:34 am

That was beautiful. But heartbreaking. I’ve met you. I’ve seen you. Both of you. And you don’t fool me. Neither of you. When that girl shines, she beams. And her swinging arms and reckless laugh are intoxicating and contagious. Even when you’re ninety-seven, the same will be true. No wallowing, missy. Life is short. Every wrinkle, every birthday, every pound is a battle scar commemorating your struggle to become independent, self-confident, defiant, you. And you’re magic. Don’t take a single one of those away and wish for yesterday, k? Cause I didn’t know you then. And I wouldn’t trade a zillion of that girl for this one.
Elly Lou´s last blog post…Rhymes With Splat


Jennifer July 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

Beautiful! You tell her!!:)
Jennifer´s last blog post…Which Rack


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Jennifer, don’t egg her on! 😉


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Elly, there is no word to describe how moved I am by these words. *blush* Any more would detract from this moment.

I heart you.


TheKitchenWitch July 12, 2010 at 7:32 am

This one really hit me hard. It’s beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. I, too, often catch a glimpse of myself and am startled at what I see. Maybe that’s why I avoid mirrors.

I’m glad you will only change for YOU.
TheKitchenWitch´s last blog post…Grilled Pears Wrapped in Proscuitto


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm

{{{{hugs}}}} It’s nice to know I am not insane. Well, on the other hand, you could be crazy like me. LOL. 😉 xxoo


Maureen@IslandRoar July 12, 2010 at 7:13 am

These comments say it all for me. This writing is so elegant and right on. Where I am at in my life right now I feel this. I see my aging parents and know they feel inside the way they did at 20. So poignant. Thank you.
Maureen@IslandRoar´s last blog post…Heat Wave


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm

No, thank YOU! I am grateful and blessed to have so much support on the Interweb. 🙂


Andrea July 12, 2010 at 8:00 am

Beautiful — both you and the post!! I think Anne Lamott said something about currently being all the different ages she ever has been. Like right now, even though I’m 29 (cough, cough), I’m also 21, 16, and 10 all at the same time. Sometimes I do feel more like that 16 year old version of me, and sometimes I feel older than the version I am today, maybe like a premonition of the older me. I think (I hope!) you never lose that young girl in you — but I adore the current version of you, so keep her too. ♥


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Thank you. I love what YOU and Anne Lamott said. I esp. love “a premonition of the older me”. Love it.


A Vapid Blonde July 12, 2010 at 6:22 am

What a beautiful post with depth of emotion. I have nothing really to add but (((hugs)))
A Vapid Blonde´s last blog post…This Is What Happens When You Find A Grilled Sausage In The Silverware Drawer


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

{{{{hugs}}} back!


Holly B July 11, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Beautifully written and it touched so many nerves in me.
Holly B´s last blog post…Gulf Waterkeepers – Save Our Gulf


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Thank you.


Sarah July 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Puddle. Ahhh. The girl in me cannot quite believe the woman she’s become. There is past and present and future. But they all converge, don’t they? Without quite meaning anything at all to the girl in you who is still just a girl clinging to the thoughts of her girlhood.

I am riveted by this post. And feel like there is so much more. That this is just the tip of an iceberg–one that is not, in fact, icy at all.

Beautiful. Just beautiful.


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Thank you. What you said,

That this is just the tip of an iceberg–one that is not, in fact, icy at all…

Thank you. I am flattered by this and grateful for your insight. This is also how I feel about many posts that I’ve come across…


dufmanno July 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I love this post. Since I’m one of those people who wander around blissfully unaware that anything around me or on me has changed since 1987 this really struck a cord.
Sadly, it’s the cord that reminds me that I am an emotionally arrested immature lunatic but that’s another story.
I agree with Shawn that you are too hard on yourself. Beauty metamorphasizes and the box we start out in must stretch and bend for a variety of wonderful life reasons. I actually feel more at peace with many aspects of myself than I ever did in my youth.
Beautiful writing from a beautiful gal.
dufmanno´s last blog post…Sunday is Worthless


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Thank you. I do feel more at peace with myself too. I don’t know how to explain. At the same time I feel the longing for my younger self, I also feel confident in myself the way I am. I am full of contradictions. As I suspect, most people are.


Wicked Shawn July 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm

So beautiful. The post is touching. I think you are too hard on yourself. I think we are all too hard on ourselves.
Wicked Shawn´s last blog post…This Is The Part Where I Breathe Deeply


Absence Alternatives July 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm

It is part of being female, no? Isn’t it kind of funny how we grew up in completely different cultures, and when we get together, we tend to realize that there is something about being female that is universal, besides the biological details…



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