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April 27, 2015
Life on Planet Kathy
Hitting Below the Seatbelt
by Kathryn H. Kidd

I think that the seatbelt in our car has a mind of its own, or that it has been possessed by a cantankerous spirit. I do not think the seatbelt likes me, although I have no idea what I ever did to make it upset.

The reason I do not think the seatbelt likes me is that it almost never allows me to use it the way I should use a seatbelt. Instead of giving of itself generously, it doles out little seatbelt segments inch by inch, as though tiny elves inside had to hand-weave the material each time it was needed.

Sometimes the belt is so tight that it barely buckles. When I can manage to make the clasp pieces fit together, the belt bisects body, pulling tight across my neck and making it hard to breathe.

Sometimes I wonder which would be more dangerous — to get in an accident with a seatbelt tightly around my neck or to get in an accident with no seatbelt at all.

Other times, when I pull out the seatbelt, the seatbelt has no intention of letting me fasten it. There is no way the mechanism is going to let me have enough of that precious webbing to fasten around my body, so after one try or even four or five I just give up.

And then there are days like today. Today, the first time I pulled it out, the seatbelt just pulled and pulled and pulled. It gave me all the slack I needed, and more. I could have wrapped that belt around Cleveland with room to spare. The locking mechanism locked easily. The belt did not lie over my windpipe. Everything worked the way it should have worked.

The thing is, the mechanism of the seatbelt has nothing whatsoever to do with me. This morning as I pulled out the seatbelt, I knew before I ever tried to fasten it that there was going to be a lot of slack, and that it was going to fasten easily, solely because the mechanism had released a lot of belt on this particular occasion.

But none of that mattered. It never matters to me that I am completely aware that the length of the seatbelt has nothing to do with my size, and if I fasten the seatbelt three or four times in a single day I will more than likely have three or four completely different experiences.

Intellectually, I have a rock-solid understanding that my seatbelt experience is going to have nothing to do with my size, and that Heidi Klum might have the same experience with this particular seatbelt as I do. But when I try to fasten that seatbelt, and when it refuses to fasten, my brain says to me, “It’s because you are fat, Fat, FAT! You are a disgusting waste of air that everyone hates. You have no business being on the planet.”

These are the messages that girls and women send to ourselves. We tell ourselves we are worthwhile if our clothes are loose or if we look pretty in the mirror or if the picture somebody just took does not show us with a double chin.

If someone says, “You look beautiful today,” we may stress for weeks over the word “today.” Did that mean we usually look ugly? What did we do on that particular day that helped? We need to know, so we can do the same thing in the future.

People who love us can tell us a thousand million times that we are beautiful and we love to hear it every time but we never believe it, because we know their words are colored by love. We are only beautiful to them because they love us. If there were not love, there would be no beauty.

Men do not listen to the same scripts as women do. If the seatbelt is tight today, it is the fault of the seatbelt mechanism. There is no drama here.

If the pants are too tight, they must have shrunk in the wash. If all the clothes are too tight, there must have been an inconvenient laundry mishap.

Men do no lie awake at night agonizing over this. If the clothes no longer fit, they just have their wives buy them looser clothes.

Make no mistake about it; men are haunted by other things. They worry about whether they will stay alive long enough to raise their children. They worry about whether the boys who pay attention to their daughters have their daughters’ best interests at heart. They worry about whether their sons will grow up to be strong and healthy and smart. They worry about whether their wives are fulfilled and happy.

But they don’t worry about how they look. This is a curse that, for the most part, has passed them by. They don’t care about the spare tires around their waists. They don’t care about the wrinkles. They don’t care about the gray hair.

Meanwhile, women are a lot more fragile than that. It’s bad enough to base your opinions on what others think, but it’s pathetic to base your self-worth around an inanimate object. But this does not matter. Today, when my seatbelt gave me a lot of slack, I knew it was going to be a great day. My seatbelt told me I was going to be able to conquer the world.

My seatbelt, an inanimate object made of woven nylon and a buckle of stainless steel, was able to influence how I felt about myself for the rest of the day.

I am only glad there will be no seatbelts in Heaven. After all, why would we need them? Of course, if we did, they would be 24-carat gold seatbelts that would work flawlessly. But more importantly, in the next life we will all know that the word “ugly” has no meaning.

After all, how do you suppose God thinks of us when He looks at us? I can’t imagine that He thinks, “That’s the ugly fat one I can’t stand to look at,” or, “That’s the one with the crippled feet,” or, “That’s the one with the world-class wart on her nose.”

On the contrary, I believe God looks at us and sees the one who makes him laugh whenever she tells jokes in her prayers, or the one who has the wonderful sense of compassion for animals, or the one who just yesterday sent a letter to her mother that made her mother cry with happiness.

I think that is the way God sees His children, and we need to see one another — and ourselves — the same way.

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