The Fat Lip
Preteen girls tend to lack somewhat in the areas of judgement and rational thinking. That could be why, at the tender age of nine, my friend and I walked her bike up to the top of a very large hill, she jumped on the seat while I positioned my rear on the handle bars......and down, down, down we flew.
Needless to say, within mere moments, I found myself flat on my face on the hard concrete pavement. The fat lip that ensued lasted more than a week's time. I refused to go outside. I refused to go to school. Heck, I even refused to leave my room.
Of course, as the cliched saying goes, time heals all wounds. And in fact my lip did, eventually return to normal size. However, little did I realize how forceful the impact of my "biking accident" was until 37 years after that traumatic event.
Cut to last Friday evening as I made my way home after a long, long week. Most Fridays usually find me in quite the good mood, excited to leave my work world behind and embrace the relaxing, welcoming, open arms of the weekend. Not so this time. If I could use one adjective to describe myself during that short journey home, I'd use the word "exhausted". The sore throat I had nursed all week had taken its toll, draining my energy and ability to focus. What's more, incessant pain in my jaw served as a reminder of the recent dental work I had suffered through a few days earlier. That, coupled with relentless worry about a dear friend going through a tough time, all added up to a burning desire to pour a huge glass of wine, crawl into the bathtub, and escape for a while.
As I steered my car along the well-worn road to home, another minor ailment reared its ugly head, my chapped lips. With my cherry flavored lip balm therapy safely out of reach inside my pocketbook, which sat on the passenger seat floor, I absentmindedly began picking at my lips until....
I now had a self-inflicted wound to add to my woes.
When I arrived home, I pushed aside the welcoming hug from my husband Bob and 15-year old daughter Melissa, ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror in terror, afraid of what I might see. A tiny bit of swelling had already started where I had picked at the skin on my lip, however I convinced myself that nobody would ever notice. What's more, Bob and Melissa also assured me that the sore spot could barely be seen and I should certainly stop worrying.
Their reassurance, however, did nothing from stopping me from running into the bathroom every ten minutes to watch in horror as my bottom lip swelled to 3,000 times its normal size. As I emerged from the bathroom nearly in tears, my family could no longer pretend I did not resemble a circus freak....however they assured me the swelling would go down in the morning, and nobody would ever notice.
Later that evening I sat in bed, held an ice pack on my lip, and stared off into space. Melissa came in and, seeing me in my pathetic state, gave me hug after hug, trying to relieve my depression. Her support, while appreciated, did nothing to deter my feelings of utter frustration at my own actions. True, this time around I must admit the fat lip did not come as a result of an attempted acrobatic cycling feat....but still, I felt just as responsible as I did on that fateful autumn day, 37 years ago when I landed flat on my face.
Suddenly, I was no longer a 47 year old working wife and mother.
I was nine years old again, falling off the handle bars, and feeling the punishing pain of stupidity in action.
I was nine years old again, with a grotesque fat lip and feeling like a freak.
I was nine years old again, afraid to come out of my bedroom, full of the insecurities that grip young girls who question their beauty, their value, and their place in the world.
I was nine years old again, longing for normalcy, stability, and love.
As morning dawned, I stumbled out of bed and, with fear in my heart, stole a quick glance in the mirror. The swelling had, indeed, subsided a bit, at least to the point where lipstick could hide the abnormality (an advantage I lacked at the age of nine). Both Bob and Melissa lovingly lied, again assuring me they couldn't see it at all. In fact, by day's end, the lip had nearly returned to some semblance of normalcy.
I relished in the love of my family, who instinctively knew all the right things to say and do to make me feel whole again. As I emerged from my bedroom, I bid farewell to the nine year old girl who returned to her rightful place, buried in memories.
As for me, I vow to never, ever pick my lips again.........or ride on bicycle handlebars!
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