I know how you feel looking in the mirror — poking the little hairs on your tummy, the weird lumps of fat on your thighs, the stretchmarks on your hips. You look at yourself and you think, “This isn’t what I am supposed to be.” You’re not quite sure what you are supposed to be, exactly, but you have a vague idea of something between a Disney princess and one of the Maxim Hot 100. You should be a thing with clean, smooth, gently curved lines and hairless, soft surfaces. You should be a thing that responds well to touch and opens itself up to criticism. You should be a thing that is at once unattainable and perfectly available for the world to poke and prod with its never-closing eyes. But most of all, you should be a thing.
You know this because you’ve been told it all your life. You have heard other girls callously mock your form in the locker rooms in middle school. You have understood the vague references by family members to lose weight or to dress better or to go out and make more friends. You have seen the people you loved refuse to love you back in the same way because you would never, ever be good enough for their fleeting approval. You have been told that there is a price of admission in life, and that price is being pleasing to everyone but yourself. For as long as you can remember, your body has been a conduit for legislation and furrowed brows and serious talks about what is happening to our generation. Your sexuality has been a means of addressing what kind of person you are fundamentally, of the exact amount of respect you deserve to receive in life. You have not been fully there, because you weren’t allowed to be.
I know how hard it is to feel good about yourself, and to do it in a way that isn’t afraid to make itself known. I know what it feels like to roll that ball all the way up the hill to the moment where you feel like you can finally say “I am awesome and beautiful,” only to be told that you are conceited and undesirable for doing so. You feel as though confidence in yourself is a forbidden commodity that you must squirrel away in the back of your closet and enjoy only in moments of absolute privacy — not unlike the shameful snack foods that you are constantly told will make you fat and ugly. You have learned to take the moments of precious self-esteem as they come, but to never make it seem as though you live in a constant state of fulfillment, lest you be harshly reminded of your place.
You are jealous of men. You are jealous of them in a way they will never be able to understand because they will never realize that their lives are so very valuable, so meaningful that they are entitled to be individuals. You often look at the ease with which they move around society, in and out of groups and cities and streets which terrify you to even pass by, and you grow almost hateful in your jealousy. The world seems to have been given to them, and they don’t even see what a precious gift it is to be able to live in it without apology. You wish that men, for once in their lives, could be judged as a whole by the actions of one, or deemed just slightly less human because they had sex with just one too many people. You wish this and then feel ridiculous, because you know that it will not happen. You know that you will be labeled as crazy or resentful for even pointing it out.
You have known the sting of having every ounce of your self-worth, every source of your opinions or experiences in life; being inextricably tied to your relationship with a man. Your thoughts only defined in the context of “daddy issues” or “heartbroken” or “a woman scorned.” You wish that you could tell people that your professional life has nothing to do with your male boss noticing your tight cardigan, or your coworker not wanting to fuck you when you wore that dowdy blouse. You wish that you didn’t have to explain to people your relationship status in the same breath that you detailed your personal achievements, your goals for the future, and your views as a human being. You wish that you could just be a person, and not one half constnatly looking to be made whole.
I know what it feels like to want to be the perfect woman, to see that there are so many directions to go in and only two feet to walk with — if you even knew how to stay on the tightrope that exists between “attention whore” and “frigid bitch.” I know that you have grown to hate that woman in some ways, to be consumed with jealousy you don’t know how to channel because another woman has been deemed more human for fitting into an archetype you can never hope to fit yourself. And I know that the worst part is that you don’t even want to be this woman, and you never have, you just wish that you could convince the world you are okay the way you are.