I am who I sometimes think I am

Not long ago, I was about to get in the passenger seat of a friend’s car when he said something like, “You can’t get in that way. You have to move the seat back.”

Two things immediately came into play, the first being my self-image. If I forget about my body, which I find happens less and less, my default assumption is that I’m a fit 36-year-old, fairly lithe and slightly supple, so I’m always bigger than I think I am. That’s what happened this time, as soon as I got down low enough to bend the right way to try to squeeze through the opening between the seat and the door frame. It would have been a lot easier to move the seat first, except he had said that I couldn’t get in without moving the seat, a snap judgment he would soon revise.

I had thought I could get in the car without moving the seat rearward and slanting it back; I was determined to do it without the owner’s help, and I did it. I had to suck in my gut, and I knocked my head on the door frame more than once. I didn’t care, although it was immediately obvious that he had warned me about getting in his car from years of watching other would-be passengers try.

The other thing that came into play was my self-image. As I was struggling to force my flab through that small opening, I said, “Do you know how many cars I’ve managed to sit in?” That was pure ego, since I didn’t think he knew the answer, and neither did I, not to mention the question being beside the point. I was just annoyed that he seemed to think I was so dim as not to be able to get in his car without his advice.

I used to think I was intelligent. I know, I know—but I did. It was how I thought of myself and so it should be how other people thought of me, too. I didn’t want him thinking I was less than brilliant. I usually know better now, and still I reacted out of that old place of wanting other people to think what I preferred. I think I was offended, or maybe insulted. It didn’t last long, and then—since I no longer think of an apology as an admission of error and don’t mind error much anymore anyway—I apologized for being snippy. I’m so mature.