This short story was written by an old member of the Girlz fam, Zainab, and can originally be found on Medium.
You’re not fat… You’re not fat… You’re not fat…
I look down at myself with twelve year old eyes, wet with tears. The jeans won’t fit. The flimsy waistband stares up at me, open zipper like a right angle, it’s stretched so far apart. Like a mouth that can’t be closed. My cold, bloodless thighs clog its throat and my fingertips are sore from straining against the inflexible denim — the half-moons at my back will not fit, and I fall to the floor exhausted, six inches of denim trailing past my ankles.
I look down at myself with sixteen year old eyes, outlined in sparkly kohl. I slip my thumbs between the pillowy skin and its restrainer, exposing the harsh red marks underneath. My middle bit’s been smushed into this artificial waistline for over 3 hours now, and it’s not happy. I’ve only got a minute before I have to go back into the party, so I just breathe a little and let my skin relax. My fingers itch, wanting to undo the button, but I mustn’t dare — once it’s open I’ll never get it closed again.
I look down at myself with nineteen year old eyes, covered in a pink and blue shadows I’m particularly proud of. I’m wearing a dress, “almost” bodycon — it’s got a bit of extra room for my waist. I reach up under it quickly, finding the reinforced nylon waist-trainer, and with a firm grip, tug it down. It’s a little tighter than it used to be, and no matter how close together I keep my legs when I walk, it has a way of riding up around my tree trunk thighs, letting all of me just billow out. This is the third time tonight I’ve had to adjust it.
I look down at myself with twenty-two year old eyes, stinging from the anti-redness drops I’ve just put in. Through the furry flutter of my false eyelashes, I note my figure with satisfaction. These compression tights might just be worth the $80 I spent on them. They’re double-lined to push up the round full moons at my back, and have spaghetti straps that hook onto my shoulders to hold them in place. I’ll get a good few hours in before they start digging into my fleshy bits. He won’t be able to call me thick again.
I look straight at myself with twenty-six year old eyes that droop at the edges. I’ve just taken off my mascara with soft dabs of cotton. Between the outposts of my femininity lies a pale stretch of stomach — it’s got slopes like sand dunes, gentle, curving, punctuated only by natural creases. At the southernmost border lie the remnants of an angry scar, now just a knot of skin, but once the reason I was in bed for a month straight. I smooth my hand across the landscape I’ve carried with me, speckled with freckles, and a light dusting of hair. I note that we’ve grown — there’s a new scar, and new land to the east. I note that we’ve healed — the spots of acne are gone. I look at this expanse of myself with respect — even now I can feel the tightened coils inside.
This stomach did 50 crunches last night, and 20 burpees the night before — and it’s not the first time. This stomach ate its way through Manhattan & Mexico, Thailand & Turkey, letting me discover my favorite foods. These thighs carried me up a Mayan ruin, propelled me across a lake in Uzbekistan, through ancient caves in Cappadocia. This apple-shaped backside sat in a canoe in Michigan, a roller coaster at Universal Studios, a chair lift in Azerbaijan. This body — my body — has lived my stories, has lived my life, with me. How dare I disrespect it with my shame?
Damn, it’s beautiful.
Damn, I’m beautiful.