You will climb to the top of the jungle gym where at the tender age of 9, your best friend Bobby is hanging upside down and screaming curse words to make the other kids laugh. He never sticks up for you when they call you names, but he never calls you names either. You will sit at the top of the dome. You are hungry for acceptance, starving. You will learn how to eat off this small kindness; you will learn to pretend that it fills you up. You will recall your mother describing the car accident she got into as a teenager. You will shut your eyes as you hear her talk about getting her jaw wired shut, and how much weight she lost. You will try to use all the fifth grade math in your little fifth grade head to figure out how you can land in such a way that will require your own jaw to be wired shut, to calculate how much weight you could lose. Math was never your strong suit, though, and you’re too young to have learned geometry so you resign yourself to another day of existing Like. This. Fat.
You will feel undesired by men. Your first experience with sex will be with a man who fed you crumbs in terms of affection, crumbs you happily accepted and crumbs you convinced yourself kept you full. Your first experience with sex will be red and painful and violent. You will be 14 when you break down outside of Spanish class, and when Dante asks you what’s wrong you will confess, begging silently for him to absolve you. He will not believe you ― he will tell you, matter-of-factly, that you are simply not pretty enough to get raped. You will swallow it back down and it will be two years before you tell anyone. You will fail your Spanish exam that day. You will fail every Spanish exam after that. When you are in your art class next period, you will stare at the wire clay cutter in your hand, bile and rage and fear stinging, sour, in the back of your throat. You will fantasize about slicing your gut off like cool gray clay. About sloughing off your thighs and your hips and your chin and your arms like the soft wet brick that sits on the table in front of you. Until you are small enough to be believable. Until you are pretty enough to have been raped.
You resign yourself to another day of existing Like. This. Fat.
You will spend years in a relationship with a man who will say he loves you. You’re beautiful, he will say. When he fucks you he will maul your soft breasts, he will bite at your sinewy neck. When you examine yourself in the mirror, you will always think that you’re lucky that you have the face, the chin, the neck of a much smaller woman.
When he fucks you, the lights will stay off. He will not touch your gut. He will go out of his way to avoid it. By now, you have noticed that you’re hungry, that you’ve been hungry, that he’s left you starving, and so you end things. He will move out and take the bed, the TV, the cat you thought you wanted.
You’ll go on a date with a mortician you meet online. His curly hair will be piled on his head in a thick bun and you will think that it must weigh almost as much as the rest of his bony frame. He will try to finger you in the photo booth at a dirty dive bar. You will take him home, he’ll roll a joint, you’ll start to kiss. For a moment his desire will confuse you; you will have a fleeting feeling of fullness. You will feel close to sated until he grabs at your fat rolls so hard, you will flinch and as he pinches and pulls, you will feel his cock strain and swell against his jeans. Later, when he is buttoning up his pants, he will ask you if you have ever let anyone feed you before. You will block his number and you will cry in the shower the next day when you find dark blue fingerprints, as though he had marked you when he squeezed you, freckled across your gut and thighs.
For a moment his desire will confuse you; you will have a fleeting feeling of fullness.
You will be promised that you do not deserve love. You will believe it. You will be loved in secret by men too ashamed to claim you. You will be loved in public, but you will not be able to shake the feeling that you’re loved in spite of your body. You will never ask if he loves you because. You will be fetishized. You will be told one hundred times that a body like yours was Built For Sex, that that’s all you’re good for, and you will waste years believing them.
You will fall in love with yourself, in spite of it all. You don’t know how it happens—maybe it’s the beautiful femmes down the street who paint their hair and lips blue and encase their guts in spandex and invite you to their house parties. Maybe you start to see yourself through the eyes of the beautiful boy with perfect teeth, who swallows hard and looks in awe when he sees you naked for the first time. Maybe it’s that you found magic, and through magic you have learned that your body is just a tool, a resource for navigating this life. That your tender heart is a gift. Maybe you’re just tired, maybe this lifetime of hating yourself has finally caught up with you, and maybe you need relief.
You will fall in love with yourself, in spite of it all.
But whatever the reason, it will happen. Before you know it, you will fall in love with the way you can trace the outline of your gut pressing against your tight black bodycon dress. With the way your loud, Ursula the sea witch laugh commands just as much space as your body. With the cellulite that dots the tops of your thighs. You will not fall in love with the way it burns when they rub in the summer, but you’ll fall in love with the way you bounce when you walk.
You will fall in love with yourself, and you will feel full.
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