Thursday, August 28, 2008

Being someone else

On the way back from work today I noticed a girl running along the pavement on the other side of the road. She was young, tall, blonde and slim – I am none of these. She was moving athletically, with long strides; clearly she was very fit. And I wondered whether I would, if I could, change places with her.

I doubt whether she would have agreed to the exchange…

I decided that I wouldn’t actually want it either because I love my family and friends so much. But it made me think vaguely about the other people I have half-wished to be, in the course of my life.

The first one, I think, was my friend M – who’s now tragically suffering from Pick’s Disease, a form of dementia. When we were girls, she seemed to me to be blessed by fate in a way that I was not. (In fact, now that I’ve lost the melodramatic tendencies of my youth – or at least some of them – I see that I too was quite blessed in various ways: interesting family, lasting friends, robust health, reasonable looks and minor but useful talents. But then I was embarrassed and self-conscious and full of doubts.) M’s family were very intense, very talented and very hardworking. They resembled each other strongly, with neat features, straight thick hair and smooth, pale, peachy skin.

When I was at university I used sometimes to walk along behind some young man – just in the course of events, you understand, not in a stalkerish way – and think how wonderful it must be to have such a small bottom. It was in the days when boys tucked their shirts or tee-shirts into their trousers. I thought I was plump in those days – though in fact when I look at photos of myself I was perfectly fine – and was always self-conscious about my body. How I would have liked not to worry about how I looked retreating; or indeed advancing. Generally speaking I thought that having a lean, rangy body must be such a treat and I would have quite happily changed with any of them – at least for a while.

At teacher training college I got to know another friend, also an M. She is just so lovely: totally confident in the nicest way – she just never sees any reason why she or her friends and family shouldn’t succeed in whatever they aspire to. She’s energetic and has lots of good ideas and enjoys life. I always think that it would be easy to be her. And yet she’s had her troubles too; in fact her husband suffered from bi-polar disorder and then cancer and she was widowed quite young.

And every now and then I see people on buses or moving along the street and I walk with them in my mind for a while and wonder what it must be like to be them. I’m sure that some of their lives are more interesting, better-paid, more enviable. But I think now that - though there are certainly adjustments that I wouldn’t mind making to myself and my life - I’m reasonably happy to be me.

Which is just as well.


  1. Just as well indeed. I have often wished to be someone else, but not a specific someone else, just...not me. Fortunately, I don't think like that much any more. Also just as well.

  2. Boy, isn't it the truth that we thought we were so fat when we were young and we really weren't? I'd love to have my young shaped "fat" self back now! Another lovely post Isabelle -- and so amazing that in different hemispheres and parts of the world, you and Meggie had such a similar post on the same day!

  3. Hi Isabelle I dont want to be anybody else But I would like to be healthy like a lot of people I have had a lot of bad health since having Two heart attacks in 2006.And I look at healthy people and wish I was like them.Have A good weekend.
    Hugs Mary.

  4. Isabelle, I am laughing a LOT at you walking behind the boy envying him his small bottom.

  5. I love my life, but I enjoy so much reading about yours that I sometimes wish I was you Isabelle.

  6. The sign of a life well-lived, Isabelle, that you are content to be you. You did however remind me of our high school headmaster who fought a long-running and ultimately futile battle to stop girls wearing jeans to school. He actually used to send notes round the school pointing out how awful girls looked from behind in jeans! And he hoped this would stop us wearing them. In fact it just made us stop walking in front of him. (That memo would probably make front page of the Daily Mail these days, wouldn't it?)

  7. A profound post here. I've felt like that lots of times. And there were times when driving home at night, I could see inside people's homes and wonder who lived there and what their life was like. Was it more fun, easier, or loving than my own? I always remind myself what Popeye the sailor man said, "I yam what I yam."

  8. It takes us a while to get used to being 'just us', doesn't it?
    I always thought I had big saddlebags and a pot belly. I do actually have a pot belly (my mother's tummy...thank you Mum!) :), but when I look back at old photos I can't figure out why I thought my thighs were too big. Funny, isn't it?
    Isabelle, if you ever take a trip over this way you must come and see our view for yourself...first hand. We'd be happy to share :) It really is rather lovely.

  9. I have spent my life wishing I was like somebody else!
    I always wished to be very beautiful or very smart but I have had to settle for very weird. Which is ok.

    I love the way you drift off into dreaming in this post, only to suddenly find the scottish pragmatism kick in., I could just HEAR you saying "Which is just as well!"
    that made me laugh.

    Anyway I believe that you are perfectly lovely as you are.

  10. When out walking the dog, I often admire people's houses and wonder if it is cuter/cozier/more welcoming inside than mine is. Sometimes I catch glimpses and it always seems so. Odd, isn't it? I have a lovely house and a lovely family. Perhaps we can't always help but wonder what it's like on the other side of the fence.

  11. A fine and thoughtful posting, Isabelle. We are given a body to inhabit and what we do with it is up to us. If I was "somebody else" then I would no longer be "me" (= death, in my book).
    Having nearly reached 70 I am very comfortable in this old body, even with its aches and pains and chronic disease - a bit like a favourite armchair which, in spite of its frayed edges, lumps and bumps, I know and can relax into.