I remember the day I got my first coat—my first real coat—not some bulky ski wear or puff ball but like a real, adult, grown-up coat. The thing was double-breasted, nice thick lapels, and had big round serious buttons on it that weren't even there to do anything but look important. It hugged my body too, like it was made just for me and my shape. I was nineteen years old.
But when I put it on it felt big. The bottom extended down just past my butt like a short dress and it made me anxious. I kept asking people about it, but they all said the same thing: it fits just right. This was how a coat was supposed to feel. I looked in the mirror, trying to see what they saw, and for short spells I could. I felt confident. I felt important. I felt like an adult. Then I'd walk around a while and happen to glance down and feel small again. A small girl in a big coat. I sat down at my first job, compliments abound, and typed away on the keyboard. It's too long now to remember what it was, some business thing or something, but it was important at the time. I pounded away at the keys, glancing side to side, and realized I didn't feel small; I felt like a monkey, a monkey that had somehow tricked everyone into thinking it was human. Or maybe I hadn't. Maybe they all knew, but they were just too nice to tell me, or too cruel. I tried saying all the right things, cracking all the right jokes, and eyed everyone like a nervous kid desperate for approval. I never got any, or at least if I did I could never see it for what it was.
Next week I took the coat off, and slunk back into my regular clothes. I didn't feel like I was lying anymore, but I didn't feel good either. I dressed for what I thought they saw me as, a monkey in a pool of men. It took me four years and the end of my degree to realize that ninety five percent of them didn't notice or care.