Unwanted Baggage

The first weekend in December is the winter date for a local sale event that brings folks straight out of the woodwork.  And not just local woodwork, either.  Folks drive up from Florida, over from South Carolina, down from Hot-lanta.  They show up in teams to divide and conquer.  They show up with small U-H*ul trucks.  They're just as likely to turn up the last weekend in April, too, when the spring sale is held.  What's being sold is T*mi luggage.  We have a T*mi factory and a factory store right here in our lovely little town.  If you've done any kind of regular traveling; if you've ever done your research before purchasing new luggage, you've probably come across the T*mi brand.  It's good stuff.  Mr. Snark and I went because we were in the market for a couple of new carry-on size bags. 

Mr. Snark got in the check out line with the bags we chose, while I continued to look around the warehouse.  Mostly at the other people who were there; a fact that should not surprise you at all.  The check out line stretched the length of the warehouse, half way across the back end, about half way up the length and started to double back on itself. By the time a T*mi employee decided to take charge of the traffic flow, it was too late.  The end of the line had formed two tails and when this poor woman tried to tell the true end of the line that they needed to merge with one of the tails, she nearly caused a riot. The line slowly inched forward and eventually, I could join Mr. Snark without being accused of "cutting."  I thought he would want to tag out because such a scene is not his scene...AT ALL!  To my surprise, he said he was good, so we stood together and chatted...making observations and small talk with each other and the folks around us.  There was a trio of older ladies behind us and one of them reached out to tap my arm.  I turned my attention to her and was floored when she asked the following:
 "When are you expecting?"
My face flushed HOT and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears.  Burn up the bridge of my nose and through my sinuses...tear ducts locked and loaded! 
"I am NOT pregnant!"
What happened next was not what I expected.  This question has been posed to me several times over the years and when I deny any gestational activity, the folk doing the asking usually fall all over themselves making apologies.
"Well, what's wrong with you?" 
Everything around me ground to a halt.  Mr. Snark's face was full of compassion for me and malice for her.  Maybe malice is too strong, but my man LOVES me and he is an honorable man.  I couldn't hear anything but my heartbeat roaring in my head.  I could feel some sneaky, traitorous tears at the corners of my eyes.  About thirty seconds later, all sorts of snappy, pithy retorts blazed through my brain but in that moment, all I could say to her was:
"WHAT do you mean?" 
I looked at Mr. Snark and told him I had to leave.  Because I did.  Because if I had stayed, I'm not certain what I would have said.  Because what I would have been said would probably have been uglier than what she said to me.  Because my home training seems to be better than hers.  Because I'm trying so hard to let Jesus shine unhindered.  Because (and this is the REAL reason) I didn't want her to see me cry and my resolve was fading.

As I stomped away, the lies crept in.
"Forty pounds gone and people still think you're fat!"
"You'll never be skinny enough!"
"Not quite as cute as you thought you were, huh?"
"Just go get second breakfast...it will make you feel better."
"Why shouldn't she think you're pregnant?"
I sat in my car...a few tears escaped.  I made the decision to go back inside and hang out with my husband.  Confrontation is NOT my strong suit but I had done nothing wrong.  I had no reason to hide.  No reason to be ashamed.  A second chance to respond for both of us.  I started to walk back toward the warehouse and had a second thought to grab my umbrella.  The sky looked like rain and my cranky hip was talking to me.  (The joys of these middle years...my left hip thinks it is a barometer.)  Parked next to me was a U-H*ul.  The driver and passenger had come out with their first load of purchases and were just hanging by their truck talking.  I had to pass between them to get my umbrella.  Small talk about it not raining...about my cranky hip.
"There's no way you're old enough to have a hip that talks to you," said one of the men.
"Oh, how kind of you, but yes.  I will be forty-seven in a couple of weeks."
"Hah!  Yes, forty-seven."
"Thirty-what?  Don't play with me, girl!"
Took me a minute...took a minute for his kindness to find the wounded place in my spirit.  The LORD is so sweet, y'all.

I joined Mr. Snark in the line, once more.  She caught my eye, but never made any approach to speak to me.  The closest thing to an apology was a pale excuse of a remorseful grimace.

As I dressed and undressed, dressed and redressed and undressed on Sunday morning I could hear her in my head.  I could hear the lies.  I heard them as I fixed my plate during fellowship breakfast in our Sunday school class...even though I made sensible choices.  I could hear them at lunch...even though I ate something healthful.  I heard them this morning as I was dressing...berating me for the snacks I ate at the office Christmas party last night.  Even though precious friends and perfect strangers have offered compliments and kindness and encouragement.  Even though I know tons of truth...those lies each have a bull horn and hold competitions to see who can be the loudest and most destructive.  I'm not sharing this story with you for your pity or sympathy.  I'm not fishing for compliments.  You know how we roll around here...we do real...and this is real. 

The struggle for acceptance of self is hard enough without "help" from anyone else or the unwanted baggage they bring with them.