When I was very young the world made me afraid of mirrors. That world had many names: Magazine, Television, Mother, Sister, Friend, Enemy…Men.
Like many, I grew up in a world that made my face a priority above all else. At twenty-seven years old I still struggle to see past the lines and the shape. Every curve is too curved or perhaps not curvy enough. Things are never in the right place. People are always too pretty, too smart, so much more of everything and so much better than the girl my parents made.
Does she sound familiar?
She has to. I’m not alone. I’ve never been alone. So many came before me. So many will remain after me. I am just another picture on a wall. Another girl starring at her portrait with confusion in her eyes. She’ll ask herself who lingers in the frame because it can’t be her. It can’t possibly be her.
I was twenty-seven years old when I self-diagnosed myself with body dysmorphia. I’d heard the word thrown around for years, but I’ve never liked labels. I’m the quiet type. The good daughter. I’m the one who is ok. The one people talk to when something is wrong. And if I’m that person then I can never be diagnosed with anything.
It’s amazing what we do to ourselves when we are sleeping. I’m not talking about the kind of sleep that happens when you rest your head and close your eyes. I’m talking about the waking sleep. The nightmare we carry around and call our dreams.
I dreamed of being skinny. I dreamed of perfect skin. I dreamed of nothing else for more than ten years. Now I wonder about the moments I lost when dreaming was my waking state and sleep was the relief.
There’s an old song I listened to recently. The lyrics claimed that ‘time is on our side’. It’s a beautiful song but I don’t for a minute believe this statement. Time has no voice, no name, no particular preference for anyone. Time takes no sides.
A moment, however.
A moment can always be on your side. It takes a single moment to shift your thinking from mirrors to trees. Lately I’ve been thinking about grass and the way it feels beneath my feet. What a relief it is, to be free from my face; the lines, the shape and all the comments people make.
Change is a slow monster, however. It growls and seeks sustenance but can never quite find it’s fill quick enough. When I call myself a constant fixer upper I truly mean it. The ‘house’ so-to-speak, never has the right paint or the precise furniture I need. Everything is shuffled around in circular fashion, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards and at times, sideways as well. When ‘fixing’ becomes your default state one thing tends to happen: life becomes a marathon and you never seem to leave the starting line.
I was eleven years old when I first became vividly aware of my body. Before that day I was certain I knew it well. I was certain it was me. I didn’t hate it because I didn’t really think too much about it. I was never removed from it. I never thought of it as clay to be prodded and moulded. Like all things in this world, that idea did not last very long.
Sitting on the front porch were my parents, smoking cigarettes. This is one of those memories that’ll probably stay with me till I die. It’s one of those memories that no longer exists for them, but somehow managed to claw its way into the front of my brain. I can recall wanting to impress them with my reading ability. My mother had recently purchased a book of poetry and I was so delighted by my ability to read it. I’ve always had a love of words and I desperately wanted to show them all the wonderful words that I could pronounce.
I read a poem and they watched. God knows if they were listening. When I finished I was proud. I expected them to be proud as well. I think that they were. I think they thought I was probably pretty smart. If only that was enough though.
I’ll never be rid of the moment when my father turned to my mother and said, “don’t you think she needs to lose some weight?”. I was standing right there, and I might has well have been invisible. I can recall my eyes glancing down across my body. It was the first time I had ever scanned it for flaws. And to think, all I wanted to know was what they thought of the poem.
The title of the book: Poems of Forgiveness. I’m not even kidding.
Kiss my ass Irony.