1. toes first
when i was younger i thought i was
beautiful. not like the other girls, of course, but i thought that
the sun followed me around because it thought i was pretty.
and i am a shop-a-holic. money burns a hole in
the back pocket of my jeans because i love to spend it.
but i do not like to go shopping. i love the idea and hate the activity.
there are few days that trying on clothes brings me
happiness because there are even fewer days that i love my
body enough to look in a mirror.
but i am trying.
("i love this dress! i can't believe that it fit!
i dropped another size!"
"what, mom? why are you looking at me like that?"
"...oh, please. one size?")
there are days when i don't leave my house and there are days
that i spend the time to put on makeup and
nice clothes to open the door and feel the fresh air and
to admire all the lovely, smiling, silently judging people who
i think are looking at me, but they probably aren't.
i missed a friend's party because i was afraid of people not wanting me
there and being left out. so i stayed home, her wrapped present in hand.
but sometimes i do speak up. i tell people what is on my mind.
when i am shot down, it is hard not to cry in
front of them, but i don't. i remember when i used to not be like
this. i used to be assertive first, then kind second. i used
to not care so much about what people thought.
but now i can feel everyone's eyes on my back, and goddamn,
it's some heavy weight.
"wow, you don't eat much, do you?"
"i don't like pizza all that much."
"you should eat more. don't be so picky."
"wow, are you going to eat all of that?"
"well... i'm hungry. i haven't really eaten today."
"i'm going to get seconds."
"aren't you coming with me?"
"no, i'm just going to stay and finish this."
"um... okay, fine. i'm leaving."
"why are you still shaking?"
"because i never win anything in my life."
4. tread water
sometimes, y'know, the food doesn't even come up.
i sit on my knees at the toilet, fingers in the back of my throat,
dry-heaving and coughing up dirt from my lungs,
but somehow, my stomach acid doesn't rise. it's like
it's trying, trying so hard. it just doesn't want to be emptied
into the toilet. and i have to push, push, push my stomach and
stick my nose near the god-awful smelling toilet and
i have to prod around the back of my throat to finally throw up
the meal that i just ate.
and i am not proud that my body will not stand for this anymore.
5. dive head first
"i'm buying this dress and wearing it to the awards ceremony."
"you sure about that?"
i turn in the mirror of the dressing room, blocking
my mother's words out and looking at
myself from all angles. i look terrible. my bottom is too
large, hips too wide, stomach too prominent. arms too big,
legs too fat. the dress is a little big on my frame.
"yes," i tell her, nodding. "yes, i am."
my partner and i get called on stage for the top ten.
while i wait, i pull the skirt of my dress down, holding it
as we walk up the stairs and into the bright spotlights
on the stage. she rubs my back, calming me.
"you look great. the dress is so cute. don't worry,
we're going to do good."
the fifth place is called and i look back at her, but
she smiles nervously. we move down the line.
it's down to us and one other school, a pair of boys next to us.
and when they call them for second, i feel tears surface.
my hands cover my mouth as i look back at her in sheer happiness.
we both do a happy dance before i go up and shake
the state officer's hand, thanking him and taking our plaques.
we eat lunch together in celebration, and in the wave
of happiness that we have won first in our state,
i eat every single bite. i wear the dress all day.
somewhere along the line, i realize that i feel beautiful.
maybe beauty isn't as synonymous with appearance
as i thought it was. but people will stare,
and i hope to god that i make it worth their while.