Saturday, September 22, 2007

Some days I still feel like this girl

I read a short story in high school that described the development of self as a layering process. If we could dissect our personalities they would be like the layers of an onion or the rings of a tree. According to the story, each year we add another layer to ourselves, a distinct, identifiable part that contributes to our personality and behaviour. As this layering process continues, the traits we acquired earlier become less prominent, but they are always there, lying beneath the surface, waiting to emerge. So when I calmly respond to Henry eating deodorant by flushing his mouth with water while dialing Poison Control, that's the part of me that's 27. When I overact to a completely benign comment Bubba made by running to my room and slamming the door, that's the part of me that's 11. When I am inordinately happy because I just spotted a blue jay, that's the part of me that's 3.

Sometimes our physical manifestations of our age don't keep up with the corresponding layer. Even though I'm currently working on layer 28, my voice still thinks I'm on layer 14 (okay, I'm being generous, layer 12). My complexion seems to be stuck on the spotty, troublesome layer 16. Even more obnoxious are those physical manifestations that precede our current layer (but who wants to talk about aging, anyway?).

The trouble with family is they know all of our layers. We can wrap ourselves confidently in our current, sleek layer, and perhaps convince the clerk at the grocery store or a casual acquaintance that yes, I really am this calm, collected and cool. But our families know better. Our families know the parts of us that overreact, irritate, and annoy. They know the parts of us that are mean, unforgiving, selfish, neurotic and moody.

But our families also know the best parts of us. In consideration of this, perhaps the layering model isn't adequate. Maybe a patchwork quilt model is preferrable, one that allows for revision and replacement. So we can keep the curiosity of layer 3, but temper it with the patience of layer 25. We can remove irrationality and selfishness and replace them with compassion and reasonableness.

I'm afraid the patchwork quilt model would tempt us to remove other personality traits, too, the little quirks and peculiarities that make us wonderfully identifiable as "us". I'm glad that I know the part of Bubba that lost his wallet days before our wedding. I love the part of Traci that could be convinced that wearing a belt over her nightgown made it adequate attire for a night out with her friends. I wouldn't want to forget the part of Scott that couldn't quite get the timing right when laying out the plot of a scary story. Sometimes, we are perfect in our imperfections.

If we could get rid of all our undesirable traits, who's to say that our current layer is our best? Perhaps the layering model will have to suffice for now, allowing us to both repress the worst and recall the best that is in us.

Even on my best days, I couldn't reclaim the innonence or sweetness I possessed at 9. But at least I've ditched those glasses.


STacy said...

I love the layers, I love the honesty, forget the glasses... I love that dress. I think I owned an identical one.

Hansens said...

I was so jealous of those glasses I remember going to the eye doctor and lying through the exam because I wanted to have glasses like you so badly! In actuality I really just wanted to be you. You were my childhood hero, and the fact that you were calm when Henry was eating deodorant, makes you me hero now!

Traci said...


How dare you tell everyone about the horrific night of the night gown and the belt! In my defense the night gown did sort of look like a dress and the belt was very in style at the time (it was brown braided leather after all).
By the way, I still think you are just as sweet as you were when you were 9. Some things just never change.


Vic and Lindsay said...

Kim-You are such a doll. I remember Traci wearing the belt over her nightgown. So funny! I am laughingso hard right now, I totally forgot about that. We went to 7-11. Love the pic of Henry in the bath he is seriously so cute!

katie said...

Remember on the way home from the blue and gold game when you said that none of us (meaning me, you, tim, or bubba) were "10's, well I think this picture proves that statement to be WRONG! You're a 10! and a cool one at that.

janel said...

and to think I asked you to come glasses shopping with me in South Bend...little did I know! : ) You are so funny. Please keep all the layers as they are right now. You are so great.