Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Years after giving it away, I found the remnants of my baptism dress. It was on the floor at my sister's house, threadbare and faded from yet another life as a hand-me-down, cracker crumbs embedded in the hem and old banana ground into one sleeve. I picked it up, and when she said it was headed to DI anyway, carried it home, where it's now been sitting unwashed on the corner of the unused desk in my living room for months.

The thought that I might want to pass this down to my own daughter someday didn't survive my high school minimalism, but seeing the dress return like a ghost has given it weird significance. Not just an object, it represents a mental place, and an event for which I was supposed to be innocent and pure and old enough to make my own decisions. I keep it now because it records the size of my body when I was eight. I wanted it to say I was small and helpless, but it doesn't; it agrees with my medical records, 90th to 98th percentile hight and weight all though elementary.

The breakthrough would be: to believe it doesn't matter that I was big and strong for an eight year old. To believe it doesn't matter that I had already learned way-too-much (but not enough) about sex, or that I had a terrible, violent temper. To believe that regardless of all this, keeping me safe and teaching me how to deal with those parts of myself was someone else's job and not just a massive problem for me to fight alone.