I Will Not Help You Hate Your Body
Saying what you hate about your own body doesn’t just hurt you
“Ugh, I’m so fat.”
The words come to you easily, an oddly comforting refrain. You grasp at your belly, screw your face up at the sight of dimpled buttocks, long for toned arms and thinner cheeks. You bemoan any fat that has visibly gathered on your body: the downy fat between your thighs, the softening of your belly. After a lifetime of training, drills, and rehearsals of moments like these, you know your lines and have found your character.
I sit in the dressing room foyer, watching you watch yourself. A triple mirror reflects your body from every angle, but only sometimes catches my size-26 frame from the bench behind you. Your body is brightly lit, foregrounded, exposed on every side, imperfect in its thinness. Your body and all its flaws are lit in triplicate, and you are stuck in a trance of disdain. Mine lurks in the shadow yours casts, the breadth of my skin unexamined and quietly nightmarish. I am unworthy of note until you notice me.
Your eyes catch fire, a spark of recognition when you remember the body behind you. The body you brought along on this shopping trip for reinforcement and moral support. The body with whom you pleaded “I just really need you there,” never finishing the remainder of the sentence: “So that I can compare my body to yours.” The body whose existence reminds you that while your insecurities persist, at least you don’t have to look like me. The breath catches in your throat, and you make eye contact through the mirror, your many reflected bodies still blotting out my one.
“I’m so fat,” you correct yourself. “But you look great! Have you lost weight?” You offer up this olive branch halfheartedly, a forced and conciliatory smile blotted hastily across your face.
I shake my head no. In all the times we’ve had this exchange, I have never lost weight. This, though, is your escape hatch, and I can’t bring myself to offer the absolution you so desperately want, but have never earned. Nor can I bring myself to tell you how it feels to hear my body so casually maligned and bemoaned, time and time again. My body is the only home I’ve got, and nearly every time I see you, you so readily and thoughtlessly insult it…