I know you have it. I know that there is something underneath the perfectly-acceptable makeup we all smear on in handfuls every morning, writhing away like a thousand slippery worms. If I could just peel back the topsoil of expensive clothes and “yes, ma’am” and bold-yet-refined glasses, I think I would want you even more. I think it would be wonderful there, full of things which challenge my idea of what looks good, of what is attractive, of what makes me want to kiss and soothe and hold onto until my nails hurt. Show it, go ahead. I brought my notepad.
Bodies are exhausting, always screaming at us from billboards and televisions and magazines, always telling us that there is something more we could be whittling down and bulking up. I am tired of looking at you through the prism of your body, convincing myself that I know you just because I have touched you 1,283,394 times. What could the rise and fall of your shoulder blade possibly teach me about that time in third grade you peed your pants and your teacher made you stand up in front of the class and walk to the nurse? Why should I care what you look like, after all? One day we’re all going to be old, and ugly, and undesirable — why get so comfortable in a train that has already left the station? I want to forget your body is even there, digging through your flesh with my fingers until I find something that time cannot erode, squirreling it away in my pockets.
I want the unflattering, the uncomfortable, the things about yourself you do not like. Could I see the jealousies you let fester, your hatred, the insignificant slights throughout your day which you allow yourself to feel righteously indignant about? What about when you cried — not a dignified, solemn tear, but a distorted-face sobbing? I want to see you cherry-red and covered in tears, in snot, in an expression that would seem more appropriate on a toddler who had scraped his knee. I want to see what you look like when emotion overrides shame.
There is an animal inside every person, and yes, our animal wants to get blood on his mouth when he eats, he wants to fuck and hunt and run. He wants to do all of the things that look good in Baroque paintings and make us feel like we dominate our territory. But our animal also wants to cry, to lick his wounds and have them licked, to limp in front of the group without being attacked while he sleeps. Our animal is a victim, deeply wounded by the sickness in our need to be pretty, to be strong, to be brave. You are so good at being brave, at putting on your smile and your shirt and your slate wiped clean of messy history. To everyone else, you are the hero of a book we could all be characters in. You have won.
But I don’t want that, because that game is rigged. Trip once, let your ugly bubble to the surface just a single time, and you are no longer of use. No, I want to burrow down into where all of your most unacceptable thoughts and secrets crash into one another, in that tiny cage they’re kept in. I want to put in jars of formaldehyde and neatly label like a Victorian scientist every nasty little thing I find. I want to form tinctures from the noxious fluids I extract, take them like medicine when I can no longer stand the inanity of having to be 100 percent presentable 100 percent of the time. We will be sick together.
I am tired of the words “I love you,” of “beauty,” of “romance.” They are putting in a neatly-wrapped package a million squirming feelings, only some of which the world would consider appropriate. We all approve of “I love you,” but do we approve of the disgusting things that love sometimes makes us do? Do we approve of the fights, of the tears, of the noises when bodies squish together, the aching thoughts of wanting to possess someone entirely? Surely these things mean “love” more than most, yet they imply love for parts of us that we are supposed to constantly be telling to quiet down.
Don’t quiet yours down. Show me your ugly, and I will show you mine. And nothing will ever be an unpleasant surprise again, because we will have known (in a way most people do not) that the other was a real human being all along.