My neck is very, very long. Up until a year and a half ago, my friends and family led me to believe this was a good thing. I was compared to swans and gazelles and told I looked graceful and ladylike.
I even got an extra jewel in my Enrichment Academy Medieval Times class once thanks to my super-long neck. Dudes apparently went crazy for long necks back then—between that and my enormous forehead I probably would've been a queen or at least a duchess. But I also wouldn't have had indoor plumbing or, you know, the right to do basically anything, so I guess I'm grateful I was born when I was.
(More on my Medieval Times class in a future post, but in the meantime I assure you that it was a real class that I took at age ten and that the jewels our teacher handed out as rewards were actually disgusting gummy candies that just looked like jewels. We were still all desperate to win them, though, for whatever reason.)
But then I went to a new chiropractor in the city. I went to the chiropractor frequently growing up—Fibromyalgia plagues my whole family, which means our soft tissues (joints, muscles, tendons, etc.) hurt worse and more often than your typical person's. I fell out of going to the chiropractor, optometrist, dentist, and basically just took horrendous care of myself in college, like you do. Once I was able to climb up out of post-grad poverty, I decided to be an adult and make some damned doctor's appointments.
I especially needed to see a chiropractor since I'd recently hurt my shoulder on a trip to Israel. I wish I could say I got my injury on some kind of badass Israeli adventure that involved four-wheeling in the desert, Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad, but unfortunately I'm pretty sure I just fell asleep in a weird position on the thirteen-hour plane ride.
The chiropractor had me do some stretches which worked absolute magic on my shoulder. I talked about my work as a writer and reader, and he talked about his wife and adorable kids. I was getting to feel like we were becoming bros, this magical muscle shaman and I.
But after I mentioned that I usually read at least two books a week, he squinted at me. "You have an extraordinarily long neck," he observed.
I grinned. I'd heard this my whole life, but it was nice to have it confirmed by an actual neck professional.
I was about to thank him for the compliment when Muscle Shaman said, "It's not a bad thing."
He said it in such a way that showed he obviously thought my long neck was a very, very bad thing indeed.
What? I replied, outraged, but only in my head. My long neck is awesome. It makes me look like a fucking swan.
Muscle Shaman went on to explain that because of my neck’s length, I'm tempted to crane it more than most people and put extra stress on my muscles. My brand of neck is especially ill-suited to a career of frequent looking down at manuscripts, books, and my computer screen.
I could barely listen to Muscle Shaman as he described exercises that would help me to manage my neck "problem.” I was too busy desperately trying to hold onto that image of myself as an Audrey Hepburn gazelle.
But as I thought more about it, I realized I'd never really been a gazelle or a swan. I'm about the least graceful person you'll ever meet. I have trouble turning corners in hallways without running into the wall. (I'm not exaggerating about this at all.) I did ballet for years but was a stiff dancer. I tended to hold my hands in weird, claw-like positions rather than relaxing them. I'm not particularly ladylike either—I swear a lot, have terrible table manners, and have never quite figured out how to paint my nails without getting polish all over my hands.
My long neck was really the only graceful thing about me, and Muscle Shaman took it away.
Crappy as it felt at the time, Muscle Shaman really did me a favor. Much as I wanted her to, Audrey Swanzelle Jillian never really existed. I’ve always been more like a giraffe, bobbing my neck this way and that and running into nearby trees.
It was tempting to cling to an idealized image of myself. But now that I was old enough to make my own doctor's appointments, I had to face facts and acknowledge who I truly am: An awkward giraffe. And honestly, since I've embraced all the less poised and ladylike parts of my personality, I've been much happier.
In the end, I'd much rather be a giraffe than a swan. Have you ever tried to feed a swan? Those birds are fucking dicks.