Your body is not yours.
The first time you realize this you are on vacation with your family. You are at the beach and girls in bikinis and boys without shirts run across the sand. Suddenly your one-piece bathing suit feels too tight, too revealing, as it points out the imperfections you are trying to hide. This is the first time you only eat part of your sandwich.
The second time you realize this is first day of High School when you realize that all the friends you had are now to cool to hang out with you. They are taller now, thinner, and their perfectly tanned bodies glisten and glow with each sashay of their hips as they walk. Now only eating part of your sandwich is habit.
The third time you realize this will be the day you are looking for a Prom Dress. You want to look like a Princess but the crown was placed on somebody else’s head. While everyone else is fitting into their little dresses, you are too big. You grab a dress that could make the cut if the Beauty Pageant judge was blind in one eye and liked whales. And as you make your way down the aisle to the dressing room to squeeze into a dress, you try not to get your hopes up, because everything falls sometimes.
When your mother asks to see you, you tell her there is a mirror in the room.
Your body is not yours. It is the four white walls they built to enclose you as you try not to stare at the image looking back at you—an image who is four sizes too big to be beautiful, with a throat that has forgotten what delicious tastes like, and a mouth that has forgotten how to form the word “beautiful.”
The fourth time is Prom Night. And while everybody else is enjoying themselves, the only thing you can think about is the way the fabric feels around you, hoping it covers the parts you hate the most, the way the gazes feel around you as people try to figure out what you are doing there, because you don’t belong. You can’t forget the way your stomach heaves when you breathe, so you hold in your breath.
Your lungs forget how to do their job.
There will be a fifth time, and a sixth time, and an “I’ve done this so many times I’ve lost track” time. You will be at the grocery store checkout line wishing your face to be on the bodies of perfection. And no matter how many times you airbrush out your imperfections, your body will still be so far from perfect that perfect has forgotten your name.
Your body is confined by price tags and bar codes and beauty treatments you think you need. Your body is a slave to society so you count how many calories society has allocated for you.
Your body is not yours. Because the money you save from not buying ice-cream will be spent on a scale to figure out how much you’re worth. Your body is the portion of food left untouched, the calorie count on the pack of chips you don’t deserve, and it all amounts to the size tag on the back of your dress.
Weight equals mass times gravity, and you learn this in physics, but you understand it when the bathroom floor pulls you against its cold, flat surface after you’ve emptied last night’s calories. Because you have too much body, and you have long since memorized your relationship with numbers. Your value is inversely proportional to your body.
Your body is not yours. It’s the mirror on the wall, the pieces on the floor, and you know all the laws and reactions governing this puzzle, but the one thing you do not know is how society could have let you devalue yourself to accommodate others. Your body is not yours. It’s generations of society defining perfection as a dress size.
And all you want to do is regain control of your mind and tell society that you have value, because your heart is too big for a little body.
This poem is a continuation of my last poem “Accidental Inheritance.”