I didn’t wear a pair of shorts in public until I was 22.

I remember so deeply how it felt to live half a mile from the beach and never go. I’d stand outside of my high school waiting for the bus, smelling the salty air, hanging out with the seagulls, feeling completely not at home. Like the beach wasn’t meant for girls like me. So I went on the internet and tried to live another life. On the internet I was a 5’2″ 100 pound girl with curly brown hair. A/S/L? 16/f/cali. California beaches didn’t stand a chance when internet me was around. On the internet, I was the spitting image of a girl named Marissa, someone I went to school with, who had huge and curious green eyes, and a tiny little body that everyone loved.

In the summertime, I’d wear baggy band tee shirts and capri pants, which was probably the least clothing I’d ever leave the house in. The band shirts were important because they meant I was doing something intentionally. I’m not wearing this men’s large shirt because I hate my body. I’m wearing it because I want you to know that I love Cursive.

Art is hard, my body was soft.

My mother once heard me crying in the shower which was something I did often, but she only heard it this time because the only shower in the house that worked during this particular period was attached to her bedroom. I cried in the shower because of the noise and because the water at least made me feel a little renewed. The heat helped with the puffy eyes. But mainly I cried in the shower because I had to walk past the mirror above the sink on the way, and the pain felt like a knife in my gut every time I closed my eyes before stepping into the tub. I spent so much of my adolescence with my eyes closed. I had to keep my eyes closed during sex for many years.

When I left the shower she sat me down for a rare moment of tenderness. She told me that she watched me from her bedroom window while I stood at the bus stop. She watched me tug on my shirt and pull on my jeans two dozen times, my body stiff as I stood two feet away from the other teenagers. I didn’t even notice that my doing this was unusual because it had become so ingrained in my everyday life. I would try on eight outfits until I found the one that made me look the smallest only to tug on the fabric lest it accidentally reveal my skin.

My mother said she could see that I felt so fucking uncomfortable and that it broke her heart to watch.

A few years after that I took a bunch of diet pills and lost enough weight to wear a tankini to a pool party, and my mother, incredulous as I walked out the door with a knee-length dress over my swimsuit, stopped me and said: “You’re not going to get in that pool. Too many people will see you and you don’t wear swimsuits around other people.”

It broke my heart to hear her say that.

In my high school there was a hallway with floor to ceiling windows that, during most of the day, offered reflections of hundreds of students walking to class. I couldn’t avoid this hallway. I also couldn’t close my eyes, because people would think I was weird, and being weird was worse than being fat. So I’d stare at the pattern of floor linoleum, and I became intimately familiar with the aesthetics of that hallway. It was sloped with railing on either side, with a slate blue floor that had raised circles that felt weird when you wore shoes without much cushioning, and the walls were a creamy beige in eggshell finish. But fuck if I know how many windows there were, because I never looked at them.

Bermuda shorts could work sometimes. I think I wore a pair when I moved into my dorm at college, but this was also right after the diet pill and anorexia summer, so I had a hate-fueled figure that finally attracted the attention of men.

So I fucked all of them. Every last one. The only thing that wouldn’t make me fuck you was a complete disregard for respect, but even then I’d probably suck dick because it helped fulfill my obligation to myself to try to be the dream girl.

I was in a fitting room in Target on Sunday with the intention of trying on a bikini. An actual bikini. Not the high-waisted kind that just show off the very top of your ribcage or that has a ton of shirring to hide “imperfections”. A fucking bikini with strings at the hips.

I closed my eyes as I put it on. I opened them again, turned around, mentally declared myself beautiful, and cried my eyes out. These tears were nothing like shower tears.

I wish I could travel back in time to tell that girl that it would get better, and that she’d just keep true blue and her life would be unlike anything she ever imagined.

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