“At least we know you love your face,” he said.
I had been using selfies during our texting as reaction pics, partly to punctuate whatever I was saying at the time, but mostly showing off my awesome selfies.
Something in his text made me pause mid-flirty comeback though. Like, what does that even mean? Was he implying that I like my face *too* much — as in beyond a reasonable amount? What exactly *is* a reasonable amount to like your own face anyway? And does he not *like* this face? Does he not find it worthy of well-lit and artistically-composed, selfies?
Wait why are you talking to me then?
I didn’t say that though. Instead, I said “Oh I *love* the rest of me too”
Liar, my non-baby baby bump yelled, its voice muffled by the tight clasp of my jeans. It’s fluffiness an indication of too much frozen pizza, Thai food, and telenovelas. I labeled that little outburst “indigestion” and took some medicine to fix it before sending a I-have-to-tell-you-that-kind-of-thing-in-person *insert giggling while blushing emoji* as my flirty comeback.
I’ve been mislabeling these things for months now. When the scale in the bathroom kept shouting guilty, fat as charged every morning, I diagnosed it with a failing power supply and hid it beneath the bed that I no longer sleep in.
Why do you have so much food in this house? asks my thighs, which are never apart. I labelled this “chaffing” and resorted to wearing pants in the house to quiet their voices.
It seems that my body does not like what we have become. It often uses slippery slope rationale to convince me to take action: You weigh 165 lbs right now she yells at me. That’s more than you’ve *ever* weighed before, like in your entire life. You weigh ten pounds more than you did last year at the *start* of your bikini competition preparation. How far are we taking this thing? Before you know it you’re going to be on one of those shows where you’re too big to leave your house. I eat a slice of pizza to spite her and she changes tactics, biding her time in silence like a pro.
It is when I have forgotten that voice in my head. When I am smiling at a perfectly coiffed faux-hawk and a face that I find particularly beautiful in the mirror, that she returns.
Do you see *that*? she tsks. Your stomach is all jiggly and the opposite of “flat flat”. She lowers her voice before going all out ad hominem. You can’t *possibly* think that someone will be attracted to you looking like that, she says. You can’t possibly think someone can love you like that.
What my body keeps trying to ask– what she desperately wants to know is: why aren’t we starving ourselves yet? Why aren’t we abstaining from sugar, dairy, grains and processed wheat? Why is my fat behind not climbing stairs or running six miles a day already. Why am I not demanding an accounting for every pound of this weight gain?
This body is a creature of habit who knows only the language of punishment and lack. She knows only the endless cycle between two never satisfied states: out-of-shapeness and getting-back-into-it. There is no in-between. No happy state of existence. No joyful reveling in a healthy body that functions just fine. Just the constant ferris wheel of condemnation and criticism This body is a country that has been at war for so long, that peace is a forgotten concept.
But bodies can be retaught. With time, new ways of being and new patterns of thought can emerge.
And so I bide my time and I wait her out. I resist the urge to buy the jump-starter diet kit, the supplements, the shakes, the teas, the lose-ten-pounds-in-two-wraps fast plans.I sit patiently with this body that I have rushed and prodded and critiqued for so long. I order a pizza without confessing “guise I’m so fat right now, I’m eating a whole pizza lolz” to my BLTs. Sometimes, I have donuts and eat out. Instead of the calorie content, I focus on the quality time and the laughter spent with friends.
I stopped misdiagnosing that steady drip of body-shaming and self-criticism. I counter it with small acts of self-love, like not wearing pants in the house any more. Look thighs, I tell them, there’s a reason why people think we run track. Stay awesome. #ThickThighsSaveLives.
The longer that I wait her out, the louder that ad hominem attack rings false. The girl in the mirror — the one who loves her face and taking selfies — is worthy of love and respect no matter her weight. And anybody who thinks otherwise isn’t worthy of this body. We have achieved, for the moment, a fragile peace.
And so I take an artistic, well-lit selfie; kiss the girl in the mirror (the brightly-colored lip print remaining behind) and I take me and this body –exactly as it is — out dancing.