I saw her in the bathroom; standing in front of the mirror, brushing powder over patches of skin that society had deemed flawed. She had taken a break from the crowded dance floor on the other side of the wall, where her body was rendered a canvas for groping hands, and the ownership of her curves was robbed.
“There’s a guy out there that’s cute,” she chuckled to me, as if that reasonably excused her need for the mask she was applying.
I wanted to tell her she didn’t need it; that the natural rose hue of her cheeks was more complimentary than any manmade powder, or that the black she painted across her eyes dimmed their sparkle.
I wanted to tell her that I’d seen the way he looked at her, and I’d seen the way he looked at the others; and how the hunger was the same across the board. And to tell her that he was probably just as worthy as the boy on the other side of the phone screen she kept looking at, with sadness in her eyes.
I wanted to shield her from the heartbreak that life would undoubtedly bring her; from the boys who’d call her crazy when she sent too many texts, and the girls who’d attack her character when she exposed their insecurities simply by being present.
She deserved to be warned that naiveté would land her shattered and confidence would deem her a bitch; and to know that finding the middle ground would seem impossible, but each day she’d get closer.
I wanted to protect her. I wanted to tell her all the ways they’d try to knock her down, brainwash her, and tell her she somehow deserved it. I needed to tell her the importance of finding the women who would bring her up instead of tear her apart, and who were fueled by support, not slander.
We need that, in this world—women who lift one another up, men who respect them, and to find love within ourselves. I think that’s where my compassion was born; from the knowledge that she was no different from me, and the girls on the dance floor were just like us, and the women we encounter each day are all fighting the same war. While there’s no protection from the inevitability of hurt, and confusion, or things that just aren’t fair, there’s solace in the sisterhood; the army of women who understand that we’re in this together.
Because at the end of the day, we’re all just looking in mirrors, masking the truth with bright colors; and it’s not until we step away that we see things couldn’t be any more black and white.