All my life, things have been weird. When I was just a kid, I suffered through a series of frizzy permanents, overseen by my older cousin who I suspect was a dropout from beauty school.
Yes, that’s me, the misfit with the electrified curls, staring glumly at the camera in the family photos.
To make matters worse, I was overweight. Oh, not as bad as my classmate, poor Patsy Hogg, whose tragic name so accurately described her physique. Still, I did have to wear stretchy elastic on my skirts.
One of my earliest memories is running eagerly across the yard toward my kindergarten classroom and then hearing some skinny kid screaming at me: “Hey, Fatty!”
Unfortunately, that name stuck.
We moved from New York to Miami when I was seven, and my Southern classmates found my Northern twang absolutely hilarious. They would ask me to repeat certain words, especially “coffee” and “dog,” so they could double over with laughter.
To make matters worse, I was the only girl who could not do a forward roll in tumbling class. I did most of my praying as I waited in line for my turn, asking God to intervene with something to spare me, including a heart attack or even an atomic bomb.
But my turn always came, and the skinny girls collapsed in fits of glee as I floundered gracelessly on the mat.
I’m the one whose bowling ball always hit the gutter. I’m the one who did a series of thunderous belly flops in swimming class. And the one who failed her driving test at age 16 by flattening a stop sign.
Other girls went to college, met the man of their dreams, graduated and got married. I became a rebel, dating tortured would-be poets, who were destined to two-time me.
While other girls were nursing their first babies, I was delivering a three-pound dissertation on existentialism to my graduate advisers.
Today, I am still a misfit. I’m a Catholic woman without children. I’m a Southerner without a drawl. And I’m a grown woman whose pet is a hamster named Ignatius.
Despite all this, each week I join all the normal folks at St. Thomas More Church to worship God. Yes, they are the Southern ladies whose homes sparkle with a Martha Stewart glow. They are the gentlemen who drive fine luxury cars and the thin, popular teen-agers who excel in tumbling class.
But I suspect the real truth. I suspect that hidden beneath the apparently perfect facades, there are broken memories, weeping hearts, and tattered dreams.
I believe that I am no longer as alone as I once was, back in the days when the name “Fatty” could shatter my heart.
You see, when the crowd inches forward, I see the young and the beautiful, the tanned and the talented, the rich and the revered. But among them I also detect the secret misfits: the broken, the scarred, and the flawed.
How astonishing that when the priest raises the Host, the misfits can whisper “Only say the word and I shall be healed.”And when the priest says “The Body of Christ,” we reply just like normal folks do: “Amen.”
What a miracle that bread becomes flesh, wine becomes blood, and in a moment of marvelous mystery, the hurts dissolve and the broken memories fade – and the misfits become the beloved.