It was the first time I could stay for my program’s Friday afternoon events. I had moved out of my parents’ home just over a month before.
I stood at the back of the room during the lecture, hyper-aware of my presence in a place at a time previously forbidden to me. I was somehow larger, taking up more space, emitting a humming sound… I felt in my bones that everyone knew I didn’t belong there.
I pressed up against the wall as if that would somehow make me less conspicuous.
It was also the first time I was wearing one of my favorite sweaters without a shell underneath it. The purple cowl neck wasn’t very low-cut, but every time I leaned over or looked down, I saw cleavage and was mortified that I was so exposed.
I didn’t pay much attention to the lecture, after all, because I alternated my time between pulling up my neckline and crossing my arms tightly over each other, gripping my upper arms so there was a a pretense of coverage.
After the lecture, everyone moved to the table with cheese and wine. I didn’t venture far from the back of the room, still clutching my upper arms. Having a wall at my back made me feel safer, less exposed.
A couple of friends stood with me. We chatted. I started relaxing. One friend got me a cup of wine, and I held the cup, leaving one arm totally exposed. I sipped wine, and relaxed further.
This was normal. I was normal. Or at least I could pretend to be normal, and no one knew the extent of the un-normal-ness of this for me, after all.
The thought was comforting, but also a little sad. Because that meant no one knew the extent of the joy of this for me, either.