The first time I remember feeling small was at swimming lessons at the YMCA. I don’t mean small as all children feel, but small even for a child my age. I must have been four years old, and I looked around at my classmates, then at my own navel. How tiny my swimsuit was compared to theirs! Why? There was nothing positive or negative yet associated with this feeling of smallness, this realization, just that observed knowledge without judgment. Everything and everyone around me felt expansive, open, huge. The pool could swallow me up. The space between the ceiling and the pool’s surface had its own kind of depth.
I think self-consciousness comes at a very early age when you have an older sibling to model it for you, force it upon you that you are not them, will never be them. I used to pile on textures of scarves, big-beaded strands of necklaces, my straw Easter hat, feel them heavy on my little body. I was fascinated by the concept of costume, by nail polish and the lipstick I got to wear at ballet recitals. Margaret hated all of that, screamed when our mom put out dresses for church each Sunday morning. The white gloves and patent buckle shoes I got to wear for Easter felt fundamental, affirming to my existence. I positioned myself daintily but posturing, knees crossed, wrists crossed. Women at church and family get-togethers told me I was adorable, so cute, look-at-those-cheeks, little lady. Princess Diana died a year after Hurricane Fran [I talk about Hurricane Fran in an earlier section of my B2], on August 31, 1997. The evening news played endless loops of the video footage they had, her small face swaddled in layers of ivory taffeta supported by crinoline and trimmed in lace, a train longer than our minivan. I was twirling my fingers in white gloves.