A few days ago:
I’m working in class with a friend, and two of her friends—who I’ll call Friend 1 and Friend 2—are having an especially loud conversation near us. Friend 1 gasps dramatically, and then begins to laugh, loud and real. I curiously look up to see why and see a single finger, hers, pointed right at me. It is a long, offending finger. “Oh my god I looked over and thought that was you!” She laughs this to Friend 2, who had followed that finger straight to me. Friend 2’s face contorts—eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouth and nose scrunched up in disbelief, confusion—in utter disgust and aversion. It is clear. She would probably die before being caught with my appearance. I feel like throwing up, but I, in my meek ways, merely smile. Like all of these demeaning situations, I act like I don’t know what was going on initially (and in reality I knew too much). The friend I was originally with says, “How silly,” and we continue with our work. A few seconds later, when I’ve successfully tuned out the other two, I hear my own friend bite back laughter, and then I excuse myself and actually go to throw up.
The incident is only seconds, maybe a minute tops, but it replays in my mind and drags my mood down like nails on a chalkboard, grating and painful.
I get home and I feel like sh*t, and look like it too, according to those people and to myself. I’m supposed to go out with my friends tonight, but I don’t really feel like it anymore.
Unsurprisingly, that small incident has ruined my whole day. It has always been weird to me, how I am so used to navigating through my problems: terrible home life, mental illness, abuse, stress from school, lack of money—all these and more, and I am still able to work everyday, go to school, eat, live, breathe. I am able to put on a farce of normalcy.
But when I’m reminded of my hideousness, I somehow crumble. And I did, as I always do—this incident with the friends is nothing new for me. Such moments are like stabbing a fresh wound over and over again, because the pain never healed the first thousand times.
Because I was never supposed to feel good, or build up confidence; I’ve never looked nice, no matter how I felt, because society said so. Being fat throughout my life put a stamp on me that calls me ugly, reduces my worth, puts me beneath others because I’m fat. And the worst part? I’ve believed it all my life. And continue to believe it, replaying Friend 1 and Friend 2 laughter in my mind, ringing through my ears like a siren blaring, warning me of my own appearance.
Eventually, I get up from my sad, fetal position in bed and look at myself in the mirror, starting with my face. Is it really that bad? That’s something I always ask myself, because is it really? Is my face so hilarious, so disgusting that it’s terrible to look like me? I think of comments I hear everyday, about my eyebrows or my hair or my face and how people think I look like a joke. I figure my face is that hilarious, because I am, in reality, a joke.
Then I look at my body, misshapen and discolored. It has always been covered in hair and stretch marks; there are scars, fresh and old, and then more scars, and there’s flab and rolls and all those things that describe fat. FAT. On all sides, every nook, mush and jiggle and cellulite. I thought about how I can’t walk around without feeling paranoid, how every morning is ruined over how my body looks when I move.
Everyday I question how life would be if this fat wasn’t there—if there’s some secret “beautiful” hiding under all the fat and other imperfections, that define me right now. In that moment, I wish for nothing more than to transform from a blob to a human, to someone who isn’t predestined to be ugly because of their body.
Except, a few moments after that, when I’ve collected my flab and chub and ugly and wash my face, I look at myself again in the mirror. A face wash has metaphorically acted like some cleanse into purity, and literally as a refresher to lessen the sad and tired tacked onto my expression. I look deeply, my body and my face, and I think—it’s not that bad. I look at myself, not as Friend 1 or Friend 2 or my own friend see me, but through my own eyes. I touch my body, my face (I think of how I can use some lotion, how my eyebrows are growing well, how soft my bra is). It’s not that bad. I make some faces at myself in the mirror, I stand up straight and then I slouch even more than I usually do, because it’s fun, and I even poke out some blackheads. It’s a pretty gross and intimate affair. I eventually try and smile, and then I go back to square one because I remember Friend 1 and Friend 2. Except, I also remember that I have my own friends to attend to today, and get ready to go out with them. That momentary interaction with my own body has lifted my spirits.
I choose an outfit I like, crop top and shorts, and my flabby stomach sticks out and I feel scared but I choose to act like I don’t. I brace myself for how grossed out my friends will be, how the general public will give me meaner looks than usual, how my mediocre makeup skills can’t hide the smallness of my eyes or blackheads on my nose. But for some reason, in the middle of all those feelings, I feel kind of good about my appearance.
If we lived in a fair world, then maybe when I met up with my friends, they would’ve complimented me, told me I look great like I did for them. But again, if we lived in a fair world, I wouldn’t have any of these problems, would I? If we lived in a fair world, society wouldn’t dictate the way we feel about ourselves, it wouldn’t have created strict barriers that boil down to sizes small and medium. Society decides my confidence, it tells me my worth by the fat of arms and imperfections along my waist, and that doesn’t seem very fair at all.