My mother was always on the alert in public. She was fat, after all. People could see her. She was braced for their reactions.
At Denny’s, nodding at a stylish woman on the other side of the restaurant: “See how that one’s looking superior? She’s watching me.”
At Safeway: “No, we’re not buying Pop Tarts!” (sotto voce) “Everyone’s looking in the basket.”
At my aunt’s at Christmas, she’d whisper: “I can’t eat pie here. I’ll have some when I’m doing the dishes.”
As a child, I would look at the woman Mom had indicated … and see a woman caught up in conversation with her date. I’d see shoppers who were arguing with their own kids, paying no attention to anyone else. At Christmas, I’d see people who were busy dealing with kids and presents and leftovers and dishes, compliments for all the cooks, and no worries about who ate what.
This began to seem really strange.
By the time I was a teenager I had decided Mom was mildly paranoid about this topic. Kind of like her insistence that leaving the house with damp hair will immediately result in a cold and her determination to never drive on a freeway.
The benefit of this is that I don’t assume people are watching me or thinking about me. Not that I’m not fascinating ;) but I assume that other people have lives and interests that simply don’t include me. Yes, there’s occasionally a direct comment about my body, or very blatant staring, but short of that, I don’t waste energy wondering what they’re thinking or saying about me.