Fishing for compliments / En busca del aplauso

La versión en español está después de la versión én inglés.

I EXERCISE FOR MY HEALTH. I live with clinical depression and I know regular physical activity significantly improves my mental health. I also know the importance of exercise in recovering from injury (like when I jump/fall off a wall, or fly through the air and land face-down on a marble floor), as well as to combat aches and pains (lately, sciatica).

Sometimes, although I have always loved exercise (mostly solitary) and thrive on it, during a depressive phase it’s not easy to find the motivation. As you can imagine, these months of pandemic have made that a challenge. But I’m trying.

I also exercise for my self-esteem. I can be ridiculously self-critical and usually don’t like what I see in the mirror. By the time I was 15 and purchased my first weight bench, I knew every one of my “flaws.” My Mother the Dowager Duchess, who herself lacked self-esteem, inadvertently passed many of her own insecurities on to me.

Most of my extended family (one aunt in particular) constantly said I was too skinny; that aunt said it was my mother’s fault for not knowing how to cook (she did know how to cook; I simply had “issues” … and genes).

But The Duchess went beyond my weight. For example: My neck was too long and would never be normal; my Adam’s apple was too big; my legs were too long and skinny. “Unlike your brother, you’ve got no chest. He’s built so much better than you.” He was 9 the first time she said that. My face was too narrow. When I was a teen, my skin wasn’t clear — like hers had always been. And then there was my profile. I mentioned recently that my mother got tears in her eyes when she saw me in silhouette in a bar mitzvah photo and realized I was developing a “bump” in my nose.

The Duchess wasn’t consistent, however. She told me that when I was 18, I would stop growing (I was always tall for my age) and I would finally gain weight. When I turned 18 and that didn’t happen, she told me to wait until I was 21. When I was 21, she said 25. And when I was 25, she said, “What are you complaining about?!? Most people would give anything to be thin like you!”

As for my nose, hers was so perfect people were convinced she had had a nose job. But despite her disappointment that I would not end up with a nose like hers, she said, “Well, a man wouldn’t look good with such a delicate nose anyway.”

When I was openly self-critical, The Duchess would say, “Now you’re fishing for compliments.” However, she would proudly boast, especially in later years (after, as she told me, I had a normal neck) that she had the most handsome son of all her friends — and her friends agreed. Oh well.

This is all completely ridiculous. But, I exercise. I moisturise. I got braces on my teeth at the age of 62. And when I see a fishing boat at 6:45 in the morning (like this one today), I think of fishing for compliments. How’s your self image?

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HAGO EJERCICIO PARA MI SALUD. Vivo con depresión clínica y sé que la actividad física regular mejora significativamente mi salud mental. También conozco la importancia del ejercicio para recuperarme de una lesión (como cuando salto / caigo de una pared, o volando por el aire y aterrizo boca abajo sobre un piso de mármol), así como para combatir dolores y molestias (últimamente, ciática ).

A veces, aunque siempre me ha gustado el ejercicio (en solitario), durante una fase depresiva no es fácil encontrar la motivación. Como puede imaginar, estos meses de pandemia lo han convertido en un desafío. Pero lo estoy intentando.

También hago ejercicio para mi autoestima. Puedo ser ridículamente autocrítico y normalmente no me gusta lo que veo en el espejo. Cuando cumplí 15 años y compré mi primer banco de pesas, conocía cada uno de mis “defectos”. Mi Madre la Duquesa Vidua, que carecía de autoestima, sin querer me transmitió muchas de sus propias inseguridades.

La mayor parte de mi familia extendida (una tía en particular) decía constantemente que yo era demasiado delgado; esa tía dijo que era culpa de mi madre por no saber cocinar (ella sabía cocinar; yo simplemente tenía “problemas” … y genes).

Pero La Duquesa fue más allá de mi peso. Por ejemplo: Mi cuello era demasiado largo y nunca sería normal; mi nuez de Adán era demasiado grande; mis piernas eran demasiado largas y delgadas. “A diferencia de tu hermano, no tienes cofre. Él ha construido mucho mejor que tú”. Tenía 9 años la primera vez que dijo eso. Mi rostro era demasiado estrecho. Cuando era adolescente, mi piel no estaba clara, como la de ella siempre lo había sido. Y luego estaba mi perfil. Recientemente mencioné que a mi madre se le llenaron los ojos de lágrimas cuando me vio con la silueta en una foto de bar mitzvah y se dio cuenta de que se me estaba formando un “bulto” en la nariz.

Sin embargo, La Duquesa no fue consistente. Me dijo que a los 18 años dejaría de crecer (siempre fui alta para mi edad) y finalmente ganaría peso. Cuando cumplí 18 años y eso no sucedió, ella me dijo que esperara hasta los 21 años. Cuando tenía 21 años, dijo 25. Y cuando tenía 25, dijo: “¿De qué te quejas?!? ¡La mayoría de la gente daría cualquier cosa por estar delgada como tú!

En cuanto a mi nariz, la suya era tan perfecta que la gente estaba convencida de que se había operado la nariz. Pero a pesar de su decepción porque yo no terminaría con una nariz como la de ella, dijo: “Bueno, un hombre no se vería bien con una nariz tan delicada de todos modos”.

Cuando yo era abiertamente autocrítica, La Duquesa decía acusadoramente: “Ahora estás pescando cumplidos” (que significa “Estás en busca del aplauso”). Sin embargo, se jactaría con orgullo, especialmente en los últimos años (después, como ella me dijo, yo tuve un cuello normal), de tener el hijo más guapo de todos sus amigas, y sus amigas estuvieron de acuerdo. Oh bien.

Todo esto es completamente ridículo. Pero, hago ejercicio. Yo hidrato. Me pusieron frenillos cuando tenía 62 años. Y cuando veo un barco de pesca a las 6:45 de la mañana (como este de hoy), pienso en buscar (pescar) del aplauso. ¿Cómo es tu imagen de ti mismo?

I had photos of a local hunk working out here. I lost those when I fixed my computer. My apologies.
Tenía fotos de un galán local trabajando aquí. Los perdí cuando arreglé mi ordenador. Mis disculpas.
This morning at 6:45. Fishing for compliments — or something better.
Está mañana a las 6:45. Pescando cumplidos — o algo mejor.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

22 thoughts on “Fishing for compliments / En busca del aplauso”

  1. your parents were assholes with the verbal abuse, just like mine. any wonder I needed therapy? now I AM FABULOUS and fuck ANYONE who disagrees with me!

    I think you are handsome. and fuck ANYONE who disagrees with me!

    interesting exercise equipment on the beach. and FREE!

    1. anne marie:
      My parents were extremely inconsistent. Excellent parents in many other ways. So, I was luckier than many. And it shouldn’t matter what I look like or THINK I look like. Right?!? So much available free on our beaches. It makes me proud of the city.

  2. I think parents often don’t fully realize how horrible they sound to their children. I can think of many instances when my parents said insensitive (or downright mean) things, but I think they genuinely didn’t realize they were being mean. Fortunately, physical appearance wasn’t something they put a lot of emphasis on, so I never got nagged for physical imperfections. Instead I got criticized for being “irresponsible” (I was the most responsible teenager on the planet) or for “not really trying” when in reality I couldn’t do my math homework because I didn’t understand it and it was freaking BORING. I also got called a “sissy” several times by my OWN MOTHER!

    (Hmmmm…I seem to have some persistent anger over these issues!)

    It sounds like your mom DID say some mean and unfair things to you. I can’t imagine how she thought that was helpful.

    When I was younger I worked out a lot, but I honestly don’t worry much about my physical appearance now. I just exercise and stay well groomed and if that’s not good enough for people then, tough luck! It’s part of the freedom that comes with being in my 50s.

    1. Steve:
      SG’s family never talked about physical appearance. In my mother’s family it was often the first thing mentioned. “How is So-and-So doing?” “She’s fat!” “Her hair looks awful.” “She doesn’t know how to dress.” Bizarre. Although I’m vain (or at least self-conscious about my appearance), I will not judge anyone else on that level. I learned from SG’s family that kindness is all that matters. Parents! I know it’s not an easy job and many (if not most) do the best they can) but sheesh! And then, to those great parents out there who have kids that don’t seem to learn from their good examples and their loving care. Kids! Sheesh! Anyway, although my parents did damage, they also were good parents in many other ways. And… I survived.

    1. Mistress Maddie:
      The cliff is very close to that building, but not quite as close as it appears in the picture. You couldn’t reach out and touch it, not by a long shot. I’ll take a walk over there one day for photos from below.

  3. Oh, Scoot. I want to take you into my semi-ample bosom and squeeze the stuffing out of you! I’m still hibernating, but I had to come out of my hole to say that 🙂
    My mother was not only verbally abusive, but physically as well. She’d beat me ’til I bled using switches, shoes and the ever popular Glamor Stretcher. Remember those? A Jack LaLanne thing. I took care of my five younger sisters so I got the brunt of everything. She got attention while she was pregnant with me and when I was born, the attention was turned to me. I could write a book, but who gives a crap. Right before we were married, she told Balder Half that he was too good for me. I was skinny, shy, quiet, never back talked, got good grades all on my own (all of my sisters did) and yet she always found fault with me. I remember my sibs and I took a self-esteem test that we found in the newspaper. We laughed our butts off because we all failed. I got the worst score.
    That’s just the tip of the ice berg. All things considered, I’ve done okay. I share too much because I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I was growing up, I guess. I’m going back to my hole now. Hope nobody is playing whack-a-mole around here 🙂

    1. Deedles:
      Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m fine really. I just sometimes share too much, as well. (I don’t think you do!) Besides, I was only struck once — when I was about 8. My mother hit me (for no good reason) but her hand hit my bony elbow and she hurt herself, so she screamed at me and stormed away. I’m glad you gave and give love to your own children and that Balder Half was smarter than your mother. No parent is perfect and no amount of great parenting guarantees a happy, well-adjusted child. But some parents really DO suck. I’m brutally honest about my parents but I hope I also share enough of the good times to indicate that it could have been a much worse childhood.

  4. Mitchell, As I read your post, I was thinking of myself. I have always had a horrible self-image, even to this day. I also find myself working hard at not getting into a blue and sad mood. Exercise helps, plus getting enough sleep. I am so glad I found your blog. I look forward to reading all of your posts. I am afraid once school starts, I may not have time to comment on all of them, but I will definitely be reading.

    1. mcpersonalspace54:
      I’m also glad you find my blog and I therefore found yours. Don’t feel pressure to comment (although I love hearing from you), it’s just good to know you’re out there.

  5. I believe I have always had a good self image…..at least enough to get me this far ! Some look at confident people as being arrogant. That couldn’t be further than the truth for most people.
    I believe it is due to what my parents told all their kids (9 of them)…….they gave praise when ‘praise was due’. They didn’t have time to do more than that.
    Sorry you didn’t get that as a child. You obviously knew what you needed and were missing. And you have found that. Good on you, Mitchell.

    1. Jim:
      To add insult to injury, my mother actually thought I was conceited. She told me that for the first time when I was 15. My reaction? Stunned silence. She never stopped believing that no matter how much I shared with her about my mental health issues. And, yes, I have definitely found what I was missing… and so much more.

  6. When I was in the 7th grade in junior high, all the girls had to take Home Economics with Miss Elwell, who was as broad as she was tall. I had sewing the first semester and cooking in the second. The previous year I was in the elementary school where I could kick and throw a football in a perfect spiral and generally didn’t give a hoot about girly stuff. Our sewing project was one of those full circle skirts popular in the late ’50s and I was having trouble finding a pattern to match my more athletic dimensions. So what did Miss Elwell tell me? “You have an oddball shape.” And for 60 years now, whenever I’m in a dressing room trying on clothes, I hear Miss Elwell in my head, telling me the same thing. Words matter.

    1. TexasTrailerParkTrash:
      I sure don’t like Miss Elwell. I hope she improved her abilities as a teacher over the years. Miss Elwell was the oddball! I recently read that verbal abuse can do more permanent damage than physical abuse. I know how much it damaged me, but having never been physically abused, I can’t imagine living through that.

  7. Embrace who you are, you are beautiful, you are handsome, you are one of a kind. Move so you can move, exercise for you. Body image my long struggle, until I started living that first sentence. And even now . . .

    1. David:
      Physical beauty is meaningless unless you have to make a living with it… and then, how empty that must feel at times.

  8. When reading this post, I thought back to when I was growing up. Realize just how fortunate I was in my parents. I do not remember either of my parents making any negative comments about me–ever. Was truly blessed. Think it might have been because they were older–in their 40s when I was born–and both had lived through some pretty tough war experiences (my mother was British-lost her oldest naval brother to a u-boat in 1940; had her home bombed; and drove an ambulance during the Blitz/WWII in London–while Dad was on B-17s in East Anglia). Think they’d seen enough years of cruelty by that time and decided they weren’t about to inflict it on the people they loved.

    So sorry that those old, unkind parental messages sometimes replay in your head.

Share your thoughts and experiences. It's always nice to know I'm not alone.