Am I the pot or the kettle?


Picture of top half of Barbie made up, hair back, in a black and white swimsuitI was at the grocery store a few days ago and happened upon a woman I used to see every morning at the pool. I never knew her name but for the sake of convenience, let’s call her “Barbie”.

I’d estimate Barbie as a few decades older than me, but she always dressed to the 9s, as much as you can dress for swimming. It appeared she had been surgically nipped and tucked and lifted, and she took tremendous care in how she presented herself. I could count on her being fully made up and beautifully coiffed (her pool activities kept her head above water), and she was by far the sharpest looking one in the pool.

That’s why it was such a shock to see Barbie at the grocery store with a younger fellow, likely her son, who was helping her with her weekly shop. She was hooked up to an oxygen tank and was not getting around with the same ease she had when I’d last seen her at the pool. Although she still presented herself well, she looked liked she had aged considerably in just a few years.

Barbie glanced my way and I have no doubt she recognized me–we’d crossed paths for years–but we were a bit too far from one another to say hello. Once she saw me, she looked down as if she were ashamed of the signs of her aging. Of course I’m making assumptions here but that was the sense I got, and you know I spent years in school learning how to read people.

When I got home, I recounted the story to J. She listened carefully, egging me on, as I described Barbie and her apparent shame for the decline in her functioning. Why would this woman feel ashamed about her declining health? “She didn’t bring it on herself or anything; she was just aging,” I said.

J. smiled, her manipulation complete, and said: “Pot, meet kettle.” I hate it when she does that. She sets a trap and I fall right into it. How often do I express discontent with my bulging belly, my pale face, the perpetual dark circles under my eyes, my slowing body and brain, and the various bruises and rashes that are all part of having leukemia? My self-consciousness knows no bounds, even though, except for my overconsumption of those Ghirardelli brownies, I have little control over this body of mine.

This incident reminded me of a celebratory dinner with dear friends several years ago. So jubilant were they that day that they started imbibing before we arrived. When we got there, S. exclaimed, loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, “It’s Angelina Jolie!” (Yes, he meant me, in case you were wondering, even though I bear a much greater likeness to a Jewish Ellen.) If I’d been drinking too, I’d have relished a moment of air-brushed perfection, but I hadn’t.

I can’t be the only pot out there. Admit it, kettles, you’d fall for J.’s entrapment as easily as I would. Maybe it’s time we all let that go. I’m game, right after I do something about those dark circles.


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