Lately, I find myself paralyzed by the realization that you can look in the mirror, recognize your person standing before you, but not actually see your body as it is.
A mirror is a piece of glass, buffed until it reflects everything your mind is capable of seeing through a combination of cones and light and filters and marks left on your waistline from where your jeans spent all day pressing against your belly button, reminding you that you exist — and that there are consequences to existing.
I’ve felt this way before, when I was much younger. My first period came when I was 11 years old. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was taller and wider than all of the boys and girls in my class.
I nestled my pain into loud music. T-shirts with anarchy symbols and ripped jeans and Converse with my favorite lyrics scrawled on the inner sole. I even convinced my parents to let me buy the semi-semi-temporary purple hair dye that one time, so on sunny days at recess, you could see flecks of maroon in my hair. I embraced my braces and decorated them with lime green rubber bands. The state of the body beneath these things did not matter to me. It was merely a canvas for a larger vision of myself, one that transcended thighs and folds of skin.
That time is now over. I am 25 and my BMI is 24. I recently reviewed the DSM guidelines for anorexia nervosa and was a bit sad to see I didn’t meet the criteria. At least it would provide some explanation for my current state. Unfortunately, for all of my internal warfare, I can’t seem to lose any weight. If anything, the more I think about food the more I want to eat it. Food is delicious, it is beautiful, it is everything to me. Flavors rolling over my tongue and marking the points in my day. Giving me rhythms and comforts to look forward to. Cheese and bread and ice cream. Though I know I am taking in calories, I don’t feel it’s the food that betrays me. The food is good. It is my body that is bad, for refusing to conform to my ideal of its own will.
My partner, who is smaller than me, touches his hips and sighs that he is too thin. My friend, who is smaller than me, touches her hips and wails that she is too large. My mirror tells me nothing, and so I walk through the streets, looking at the women that pass by me. Looking at their calves and biceps and…