In the beginning there was Miss Min. Miss Min never felt scared or alone, even in the big ‘under-the-house’ where she played by herself. She was all serenity, connected to something out there that she trusted completely. It made her happy, this esoteric extension of herself and she communed with it in every waking moment, enveloped entirely by invisible, loving arms. Before she was two years old Miss Min was at one with the universe, with the great ‘I Am’ that had no name.
Beyond the hurt of a scraped knee or the rumblings of a hungry tummy, she had no awareness of her physical self. She knew not her face or her chubby little knees. These things were not important. She skipped and jumped and flung her chubby legs in flighty dances and spinning her arms like a helicopter, she would laugh and feel warm and whole inside.
When Miss Min was four they called her Lindy Lou and Lindy Lou was a silly little girl. She dropped things. One day she dropped a bottle of lemonade as she struggled up the footpath. The next time her mother went shopping she sent Lindy Lou to stay with the neighbours where she wouldn’t be a nuisance. But Lindy Lou was terribly afraid in the big, strange house. The big boy who lived in the verandah bedroom paralyzed her with fear.
Later, when she was seven, a boy she didn’t know called her a slut. She didn’t know what a slut was and she didn’t know why he yelled at her. Boys were scary.
Lin emerged when she was ten and a teenage boy exposed himself while she was playing basketball behind the school hall. Her friend grabbed her by the hand and said they had better run away. Later she got into trouble because she didn’t tell her parents what had happened. Carmel told her parents everything, they said. Why didn’t she? Lin said nothing; she felt small and wrong on the inside. Why were they so angry with her? She wasn’t even sure what had happened back there and she was ashamed of that too. Boys did bad things and it was all her fault.
At her first high school dance Lin’s mother dressed her in a floral dress with too many frills and a high, button up collar. Her long, silky hair was swept in a wave over her left eye and mother said she looked like Virginia Lake, whoever that was. But Lin thought she looked like something out of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and begged for a smudge of pink lipstick, for a touch of sophistication. But as her new crush’s gaze fell upon her and lit up his face she basked in the warm glow of his appreciation. At least for him she was good enough.
That moment was brief, cut short by the grand entrance of her best friend, parading her low-cut, fire engine red evening dress and upswept hair with cool panache. Every male eye was trained in the direction of her ample cleavage and nipped in waist. Lin was forgotten. Betrayed. Betrayed by her boyfriend’s easy abdication; by her mother’s insistence on keeping her a little girl; and by the look of victory in her best friend’s eyes. Shame stained her cheeks and ruined her evening. Mostly she was ashamed of herself; of the tiny breasts that were budding like coat buttons, struggling for existence, and of her nondescript hair and dull, brown eyes.
Growing into Melinda, she quickly recovered, pulling a string of boyfriends in her wake. She focussed on God again, this time one that had been defined and named for her, and He kept her heart safe. When she was sixteen a friend looked at her with much puzzlement and, drawing her eyebrows together, asked Melinda if nothing ever bothered her. No, she said, Not really. Nothing worries me. And it didn’t – not while her heart was cocooned within God’s embrace and hidden from mankind.
At college she fell in love with a gentle, plain boy who was good to her. Sometimes he had to work late on projects and his partner was the prettiest girl in college. They teased her about it. Wasn’t she worried? Him up there with the goddess? No, she didn’t mind. She trusted him, yes, she did. But over the months too much stodgy college food padded out Melinda’s hips and thighs and she began to feel depressed, inadequate. When she went home for the summer break, her mother laughed and said she looked like she’d been poured into her pants. So the diets began and the eating disorder, slowly and insidiously, took over her life. She told her boyfriend she didn’t love him anymore and broke his heart. Melinda was in deep pain, isolated from herself. Even God was slipping away.
She married at twenty-one to escape the pain, to give her an identity. When she found the pornography in her husband’s writing bureau – she’d only wanted to borrow paper for a letter – she asked him if he thought she was pretty. ‘You’re alright,’ he said. ‘You’re no Miss Australia.’ She hadn’t thought to be compared – but he had. Now she became obsessed, comparing herself to every girl on the street, every magazine picture, every television ad. She never came out on top.
After the divorce, Melinda moved to the city to find herself. It was here that she was raped. They were nice boys; pushy, confident boys who spiked her drinks. Three whiskeys and she couldn’t feel her legs. The taxi driver could have saved her if he’d wanted to; if he’d taken her home when she begged him to; instead of listening to the boys who jumped in either side of her and gave him their own directions. But the taxi driver didn’t want to save her.
They stripped her and threw her into the shower as though she wasn’t clean enough for them - and picked her up naked from the floor when she couldn’t stand. It wasn’t a violent rape. It didn’t need to be. They fell asleep like innocents and Melinda crawled out at 4am, hailing another cab in her wet dress and no knickers. She’s always hated cabbies.
Two children and two relationships later Melinda learned that men cheat on you even when the sex is good and your heart is wrung out from trying. She learned that love is not enough. So Melinda, not understanding what she did, hardened her heart. Decided to play the game. Compete. It was the only way to survive. She tortured her hair with perming rods and bleach and took to short skirts and midriff tops. For a while, with her painted, ivory face, she won. Men are easily fooled. But always she was afraid, anxiety lapping at her heels with every stilettoed step. She trusted no-one, for failure was only a glance away – his glance; away from her - and she was tired, bone tired. Tired of the changing rules and dead set scared of that last insurmountable obstacle – aging. The game she would never win.
Melinda began the long journey of survival on her own with two daughters, shunning men until she could discern whom to trust. There would be more mistakes to come but Melinda was growing, becoming stronger, finding her voice. She had begun the metamorphosis from earth bound caterpillar to butterfly with strong wings.
In the now there is Mel. And Mel is searching for Miss Min. She yearns for connectedness, belonging. She reaches out to real people, especially to real women who are so many different things. They are young, they are old, they are short and they are tall; but all of them are beautiful. What goes on inside these beings is what draws Mel, for she looks at them with her ‘other’ eye, the one that sees the heart, the one that rejects the unsightly in spirit. Mel doesn’t play the game anymore. Beauty is no longer a goal. She is already there.
The fear of betrayal we call jealousy still lurks in the shadows but she is increasingly protected, drawn back to a deep source of knowing and abiding love. For Mel is truly finding Miss Min again, the infant who remembered who she was. This is our journey home, a return to our beginnings, where there is no fear and no pain – and no betrayal.
COMMENT: What a wonderful story. It strikes at the heart of every woman I am sure. How fragile we are and how strong we have the potential to become.
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