They start the minute I get out of bed and look in the mirror – the voices, I mean. The ones that burn hot in my ears which point out the reasons I am not enough – or maybe too much. Like each time my fingertips trace over the hills of my stretch mark riddled hips, it’s the guy whose bed I crawl in and out of each weekend who sighs, regrettably, and says that I ‘look better with the lights off.’ And when my eyes stare hot at the bulge that is my stomach, it’s my middle school best friend, telling me, matter-of-factly, that she would “rather have acne than be fat.” And each time I feel my thighs touch, it’s the echo of each up and down glare that ends with “you have such a pretty face.” It’s at this point that I give up, get dressed and vow to myself that I won’t eat today.
When I leave my home and walk past people on the street, I’ll constantly fix myself – keep my shirt from riding up, elongate my neck to make sure that sinful double chin isn’t sticking out to ruin everyone’s view. Because despite physically being alone, I am never quite alone. There’s that ever present eye watching me walk and talk and do my every day tasks that I must look appealing for. I must try my hardest to appease those around me because I’ve been taught that I am not appealing enough to just be, as I am, as a woman. It’s at this point that I walk into the bank and check my reflection in the teller window ten times to make sure that I look decent – or just the best I can for myself.
And later that night when I’m home on the phone and he tells me that I’m the “most perfect girl for him, inside and out” I know it’s too good to be true. Because it’s been drilled into me that I’m not allowed to be loved completely, because I am too full – there’s too much of me to deserve it in whole, so I must beg for half. Because I’m supposed to praise a man who can pick me despite my weight. That no one will ever love the curves of my legs or the fullness of my face so I should enhance my humor, or maybe learn more about the world, to make up for my ever present flaws. And maybe if I lose ten or twenty pounds I wont be so full – maybe if my bones become more visible and less fleshy I’ll deserve that whole love. Maybe if I pick up a magazine that tells me what workouts to do and what positions to work on, I’ll finally be able to meet the man in the editorial who talks about how he loves girls who go to the gym. But for now, I’ll take his compliments half-heartedly like the love I’m told I deserve.
And it’s when my head hits the pillow, that’s when I ask the question: When exactly I will be allowed to love myself? When will I be able to laugh with friends without wondering if my double chin is showing? When will I be able to have a conversation where the words coming out of my mouth mean more than what I look like while speaking them? When does that sigh of relief come?
The answer comes that next morning, while glaring into the mirror when I stop vowing to curb my appetite. When I walk confidently into that same bank feeling my thighs rub against each other and smiling without a question of how I look. It’s when I realize I deserve a love as big as my stomach and a future as wide as my hips – it’s in that moment I demand nothing less.