There was a period of time when I, like many other millennial tweens, liberally applied roll-on body glitter to every conceivable inch of my body. My junior high school actually had a rule against wearing it in the computer labs, as the glitter would fall from our skin to clog up and damage the keyboards. All the girls, myself included, took it as a personal slight against our right to express and draw attention to ourselves. Luckily, having a first period computer class meant that I could skip off to the restroom right after the bell rang to apply my glam for the day.
I felt confident in this skin that shimmered and glowed, a confidence that was fleeting and rare in my youth. I’d experienced a very rough couple of years before my acne cleared for a spell and I was able to exchange my glasses for contacts. I sought acceptance in my peers and it seemed I’d finally found it. However, there was still a discomfort I couldn’t shake as a result of existing in a body that had begun to gain weight with the rise of puberty and showed no signs of slowing or changing. There was always doubt.
Suddenly, I found myself being treated very poorly by a number of girls I’d counted as part of my friendly circle. The details of the situation escape me in a fuzzy haze of past grievances that seem so trivial but I know have contributed to who I am and how I think today.
Adolescent girls are more harsh than I know how to put into words - especially the beautiful ones. I thought I had been welcome, I thought I’d found a home, only to discover I didn’t meet some sort of standard. As a moderately rotund and awkward strangeling with damaged skin, unchecked social anxiety, and deep-seeded self esteem and body image issues - I didn’t stand a chance.
Upon my rejection, I progressed through the “cover-up yet remain rebellious” stage. Black, black, black, and more black. I drowned myself in it, got lost in it. There were chains and spiked-collars involved. I chose black as a way of cloaking a body that I loathed, epitomizing the stereotype of teenage angst and self hate.
I would eventually introduce the color red into my wardrobe but continue to hide myself. I wrote poetry about the landscape of my body and how greatly it disgusted me. I wanted to decorate myself and emit beauty, but felt limited in my skin and intimidated by the possibility of being visible.
It is so much easier to remain invisible.
Now in my mid-twenties, as I spend hours painting my fingertips and dipping them into pots of glitter, adding shimmer to my eyes and staining my lips, I still often lack the courage to walk out into the world.
There’s this thing about visibility that I can’t seem to grasp. There are times where I am okay with being visible and will wear what I like, but more often than not I lack the ability to be able to truly let go of the external thoughts and opinions of others. I paint myself up to remain indoors, with myself - because my past experiences tell me that being a hyper-visible (fat) girl subjects you to a kind of vulnerability that can break you hard.
Perhaps it comes down to “not caring” - letting go of inhibition - as I’ve consistently been told. “Just be confident!” “Stop caring about what others think!” “Wear what you want, why does it matter what people say?”
It doesn’t matter, but I believe my mental illness makes it matter. I believe my experiences have conditioned me to feel and act this way, experienced guided by outside forces, so why the fuck is it up to ME to change it? How does one find confidence in the face of a world so quick to judge, so ready to misinterpret my approach to wellness and shame my body? How does one simply overcome mental barriers that have been so solidly built?
I do know that I am tired. I am so, so fucking tired of caring. I have always been exhausted by this innate ability I have to think about every possibility so excessively that it immobilizes me.
I want to die my hair a shocking color and take massive strides toward propelling myself forward and into the light, with glitter on my nails and a rainbow of colors on my body, daring anyone and everyone to deny me self acceptance and the right to express through my appearance so I can knock them the fuck down.
oh hay, wut, i’m bored and there’s a stain hidden under my brooch.
Letting the fan blow up my skirts in this Michigan heat, sippin on choco almond milk and painting glitter on my nails while hives pop up all over my body at random. Sometimes it’s hard to find beauty in myself but when I do, I hold on tight.