I’ve always been loud. I’ve always been funny. I’ve always been friendly AF. Until about a year ago, though, none of that seemed to matter to the (straight, white) dudes I was surrounded by. Or maybe it did matter—in a bad way. Probably the latter. Yikes.
Then I went to Amsterdam for study abroad, lost twenty pounds, and started believing I’m the bad bitch I always suspected I was. I came back to school with a “fuck you” confidence that had zero patience for shallow men (and women) who’d decided, at some point over the preceding two and a half years, that they didn’t like me even though they literally didn’t know me—lazy people who had no interest in making friends with unforgiving (female) personalities. And, incidentally, I noticed that people who never before saw me, saw me. And I started hooking up with a guy I’d date for almost a year. And I felt more savagely self-owned—more relentlessly me—than ever.
I felt seen.
For the first two years of college—for the first two decades of my life—though, I felt fucking translucent. My friends would walk into parties with this bubbly self-assurance grown from years of getting attention from dudes. From never foregoing going out because they felt fat or bloated or ugly. From seeing themselves, and from feeling seen. And because I’m loud and and funny and friendly, everyone who didn’t really know me assumed I was just as confident as the next wannabe Latina Ellen Degeneres.
But I was hurting. The same lacrosse players who chatted my girls up with rigorous charm wouldn’t so much as make eye contact with me. I’d think, “If only I had a flatter stomach and a thinner face and a rounder ass and thighs that didn’t touch. They’d look at me then.”
My fear—my feeling—of being invisible predates college. It was there in lower, middle, and high school. I was a plush kid with hairy arms and transition glasses. Boys never pay attention to the short, chubby, furry brunette with nerdy specks. Even after I shed my baby fat and got contacts, I felt like an invisible girl. Even after I got boobs and grew into my woman’s body and noticed that not all guys saw through me, I felt like an invisible girl. I still was.
I was sitting on the beach during senior week when it struck me—I mean really struck me—that despite my ever-growing confidence in my skin, my sexuality, myself, a lot of the same dudes who didn’t see me in freshman year, still don’t. At the risk of sounding petty, it irks me to hear my friends go on on about how these guys are cool. They’re nice. They’re “actually really charming.” It irks me that they don’t realize how these guys choose not to see me.
But guess what? I graduate next weekend, and in the real world, where not everyone is a straight white lacrosse player who’s going into banking for the LOVE of it (and, like, DEF not for the money). Where I feel far less frequently that people are actively trying to disaffirm my existence.
Fuck any man who sees only the contour of your person. Fuck any man who—in passing—makes you feel like you barely exist. You exist. You’re solid, you’re whole, and I see you.