Outside on the playground, mothers collect and chat. I update my pals as to my current abilities of speech when an unfamiliar face appears. My pals explain my condition, thus saving me a few syllables. I note the blink of a furrow across her brow. Disapproval. There are a thousand unspoken criticisms adrift, all directly linked to a question of priorities – children are a parent’s first responsibility, everything is secondary, but how much more so for the parent of a special needs child? She phrases her question with care, subtly, with diplomacy. It translates to, ‘what’s an old baggage like you having plastic surgery for, you vain old bat, must have more money than sense?’
I blink and think. Her eyes check out my lanky form, not the slim of elegant physique, but the skinny that turns scrawny with age. I have a light bulb moment. I gird my enunciation to offer, “actually, the procedure is covered by my medical insurance, it’s not cosmetic.” “Not cosmetic?” “No.” “I don’t understand. If it’s not cosmetic why didn’t you have it done when you were a kid?” “I don’t really know? I did wear braces, but no-one suggested surgery until I came over here.” “Well, we do have the best in the world. So how is it different now?” “They join, I can [or could or will be able to ] eat.” “What did you do before?” “Eat with a knife and fork, swallow a lot of chunks, have a great deal of indigestion.” “Has it always been like that?” “Er, as long as I can remember.” “No wonder you’re so……..er slim,” she adds, softened. Which confirms that we should "never judge a book by it's cover," even if it is a bit tatty and decrepid like mine.
My chum leans over to offer, “don’t worry, a few weeks without all that string and she’ll be as fat as everyone else.”