What you see is a girl, only 25-years-old, whose hands frantically type words onto her cellphone. You stand behind me, whistling to the tone of whatever mix tape the Starbucks near your house decides to play. You eye me up carefully. You see my floral dress, my high heel sandals, and my chipped nail polish deteriorating on my toes. You see bold lips, and emerald eyes, and a smile that seems to vanish into the thinly veined politeness I spew to the barista behind the counter. What you see is an image.
But there’s so much more than that.
While you see a girl, with crimson lips and a flashy smile, I see the girl who cries an hour every week over her fear of never having children. I feel her vulnerability bubbling beneath her veins. I feel her pulse increase, igniting like flames coursing through her veins when she has to listen to her best friend talk about her excitement about having a baby. I feel her sadness creep in on Instagram photos as she types the word “congratulations” and fakes a smile because she has to.
When you see the girl with lilac lips and crooked teeth, you see the innocence radiating off her cheeks. I see the fear of never accomplishing what she covets most. I feel her urgency of making it big off of the written word. I feel the flutter inside her chest as her fingertips beat frantically into the keys that resemble forgone letters. I feel the anxiety, the insecurity she feels when her dearest friend lets her read an excerpt of her first book and is blown away by her authenticity. I can feel her jealous irrationality that she doesn’t compare to the likes of others, and that she feels defeated sometimes because of it.
When you see the girl order her coffee, and she makes the vain request that nothing whipped should touch her lips, I see the girl who is too afraid to love herself for how she looks.
I see the girl who sucks in her stomach when she stands in line so she can look half as appealing as the other girls. I see the girl who rests her palm beneath her chin, because she doesn’t enjoy the appeal of her supple cheeks. I see the girl who is too scared to belly laugh, for fear her belly will be exposed to those who she’s tricked into believing isn’t there. You see the girl, trying to fit into a standard mold while I understand why she attempts to do so.
When you see the girl strut past you in her clunky heels, eyes shielded away underneath cheap plastic, you see a girl who exudes confidence. I see the girl who tries to hold it together – weighed down by societal pressure, insecurities, fears and wants that radiate from her temple to her knee caps. I see the girl who begs to be accepted, who pines for a life greater beyond her own.
That’s who I want you to know — the girl behind the smile.