Sunday, February 22, 2009

On "Pretty Parts" by Hannah Pittard (1464 words) ***

My sister has this one weird thumb. It's normal length, but it looks like a dwarf thumb in some way. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps the last segment, following the knuckle, is shorter than usual. That would be my bet. But I haven't seen my sister's thumbs in years. I don't even know whether the odd thumb is on the right or left hand. Still, this is what you do when you are growing up together. You compare thumbs.

Or maybe, when you're a teenager, you compare a whole lot more than that. Suddenly, your body going all wonky on you, you look at yourself amid others and think, am I normal? Am I developing as the guys or girls around me are? Others heighten your concern. They make fun of your ears or your hair. (I remember, years later, someone seeing a picture of me from when high school saying I was really cute. I didn't think of myself as that in high school--and still wouldn't. But I wonder if it was all those others, talking me down, that in part affected the image I had of me back then. Or maybe I just look good in pictures, as some have noted.)

Take any given moment, and our own perception of our looks can vary. I can be quite nice looking one day and a too-quickly-aging man the next. Thin or fat but on the scale still the same weight. Perhaps we like to have someone there to tell us, give us perspective, on who we really are--or rather, what our bodies really are. And that's the essence of Hannah Pittard's story.

Start not with a sister but with a man and a woman of dubious relation--strangers perhaps, or girl/boyfriend playing strangers? Take off their clothes. Expose them to each other. Evaluate. Read about the two of them here at Narrative Magazine. (Log-in required--but it's free!)

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