“So, what was your first impression of me?” - I once asked a recently discovered friend who I’ve been hanging out frequently with during this past few weeks. I was expecting something like, “You’re too big” or “Too tall”, or “Overweight!”, or “A bit intimidating”, or “Ahh, really smart!” (tehee!). But all I got was, “You’re too clumsy!” Aaaargh! Ouch! That stung!
But instead of pouncing on the poor guy and tearing him up into pieces for the unnecessary insult to my already injured self-esteem, I found myself awed at this unmitigated display of candor on his part. Few people dare to discuss my clumsiness with me, out in the open. And I appreciate his sheer lack of knowledge of the magnitude of my wrath or the peril of my tantrums. For this alone, I spared him.
You see I do not deny my clumsiness. This huge, amorphous physique that I’ve been so terribly gifted with could only come with a matching awkwardness in movement, a gawkiness in behavior that even my parents found irritating. For years, I have been dealing with a chronic lack of grace. I walk with an oafish, lumbering stride, so unfeminine and unbecoming. So, I do not move my head flirtatiously or fiddle with my hair the way most women do. My hips don't generate a lovely erotic sway. Ahh, I don't even have hips to speak of, much more a butt! Hah! But duh! So what? What's the big deal about being graceful? Why should women take pains in acting fluidly, with so much grace?
My mom once said that if I continue to move this way, I’ll never get myself a man. She said, "Jean, go find yourself some grace!" Hah! Grace, huh? I wouldn’t bother with men who only look at how women move, and forget about what they think and say and do. For me, grace isn't just a degree of beauty or form or style. It has to be more than that. And if there should be restraint for grace to exist, then I'd rather pass and remain clumsy as I am now.
Ok, excuses, excuses. My legitimizing this literally “awkward state of affairs” is not enough to remove my clumsiness, I know. But biologically, I do have an excuse that might be valid enough. God gave me feet with collapsed transverse arches. They make wearing heels an ordeal and they make my feet grow hideous corns right in between the balls of the feet. No matter how many foot spas I go to, my feet are as thick as farmers’ feet. They will always be huge Size 9s and I will never be able to walk on heels with enough grace that I won’t be mistaken for a transvestite. Because of the wrong shape of the feet, my knees just followed. I remember that at 4 years old, my mother was trying to massage my knees to reshape them. She said they look weird. Well, they are weird.
So these were the gifts I was born with: knock-knees, calves as big as logs, feet with collapsed transverse arches, corns and calluses that spontaneously spring up despite the absence of trauma, and a gait that can never survive high heels! Because of those in-born attributes, I have learned to carry a backpack like a high school boy, and walk around like a full-pledged overweight, drunken kargador. I don't subscribe to that well-accepted notion that girls should forever be sitting down with legs closed and slightly positioned to the side, and with their hands neatly rested on their laps.
I walk and talk as I please. Grace for me, is not merely the presence of dignified and restricted beauty, but beauty despite the lack of form or harmony - what the poet Robert Herrick called "delight in disorder". And I, being born ugly, should find beauty in what I was born with. Knowing that is grace in itself.
Ergo, I would like to believe that there must be a reason for this clumsiness. God must have thought I should be born this way. Ahhh, maybe He thought I would have to be loved that way too. And because clumsy people like me slip and fall down all the time, God must have already devised ways to catch us every time we do.