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What I Think About When I Think About My Body

I didn’t fully believe there was a hole in me until I tried filling it with a tampon before college. Still didn’t quite believe it was there until I had sex the next year. Feel jealous of people who get to have sex with it. Putting something into...

Face and Skin

Had very big cheeks as a child. Liked to do a trick where I’d squeeze them together and say “bunchy bunnies.” Still have a fleshy, easy-to-manipulate face. Hopefully my facial fat will ward off wrinkles if I ever become an old person.

Mom would use a jokingly menacing voice to say “bore a hole” while spiraling a finger into my belly button or ear. Sometimes she’d take my hand and move my skin over my knuckles and say, “crinkle-crinkle.” I’d laugh but feel privately unsettled by these sensations that suggested another body underneath the one I could see.

Smallish red bumps appeared on my upper arms in middle school. Felt jealous of girls in tank tops. Some bumps are still there but they aren’t red anymore and most are strategically covered with tattoos.

First serious pimple grew on my back freshman year of high school. I picked at it until it was a quarter-sized red spot. Felt obsessed with how hard it was to reach and see, and the relief that came with the things I’d squeeze out of it. Developed mild bacne sophomore year. Didn’t think anyone would see my back so I gave myself permission to pick at it, sometimes in hour-long sessions, which my friend who liked to do the same thing referred to as “harvesting.” I’ve mostly stopped doing this but still have urges to hide my back with hair during sex.

After taking me to see Jurassic Park, my parents stopped at an ID-card kiosk at the mall. Someone wrote “mole on left thigh” under “identifying marks” on my ID-card. I found the card in college and gave it to my friend Meghan, who wore it in her clear jacket-pocket and started calling me “Megan Boyle Mole on Left Thigh.”


Photo by Tao Lin

Smells

Boy across from me raised his hand and told the class I had touched his desk. Teacher said, “That’s OK.” Boy said it wasn’t OK because I stank and insisted I smelled bad until his seat was moved. If I’m interacting with another person, 55-70 percent of my mental activity is worrying about how I smell.

Here are some blurbs about my feet:

“FEEEEEET.” –Me, pre-kindergarten, in a demonic voice after removing shoes and socks and inhaling deeply.

“Can you please put your shoes back on?” –Friend, shortly before arguing.

 “I noticed you don’t shower at night anymore.” –Ex-boyfriend, shortly before arguing and showering.

“How about wearing your gym shoes all day before you come over next time?” –Person I dated who had a foot fetish.


Photo by Mallory Whitten

Height

Since I’ve stopped growing people have told me I look shorter than I am. When I was 18 a nurse weighed me but without measuring my height marked 5’3” in a box. I thought I was 5’7” and asked my doctor to re-measure me, which she reluctantly did several times, each time looking perplexed at the tape on the wall where it said 5’6.75” and my head stopped. It seems needlessly cumbersome to write or say 5’6.75,” and rounding down almost an inch is less accurate, so I tell people I’m 5’7,” which they sometimes believe.

Weight

For about a week at camp, whenever I’d pass this older girl in the swimming pool she’d half-sing half-yell, “You’re so fat you can hardly bat” at me. I didn’t know I was fat or playing baseball.

On Sundays my family would eat with my grandmother, who would make probably well-intentioned comments about my food choices and weight gain, which my parents would respond to as if she were criticizing their parenting skills. I don’t remember if or how I responded but at some point I started thinking, “I’m fat, might as well be fat.” The other largest girl in fourth grade and I liked to “compete” to see who was biggest. We reported our weights to each other semi-weekly.

Gym teacher walked alongside me during my 17-minute mile while classmates watched. The next year, in eighth grade, I lost 30 pounds at Weight Watchers. Since then I’ve cycled through 30-pound weight gains and losses four times. The location of my weight feels less like 133 pounds on me, and a hovering 30 pounds I’m always either gaining or losing.

Asked an ex-boyfriend what he thought about my weight and he said he’d like it if I were bigger. Asked another ex-boyfriend if he’d rather I lost or gained ten pounds. He said he thought I looked perfect, but after about ten minutes of pestering him with the hypothetical scenario where I’d either do one or the other, he said “lose, I guess,” and I gained ten. Mutually agreed with another ex-boyfriend that it’s preferable for the girl to be smaller so I got smaller but not small enough. All three ex-boyfriends have been close to my height but weighed less than me. Others have complimented the way I carry weight, but for some reason being less-seriously or non-romantically involved makes positive feedback seem exaggerated and ineffective.


Photo by Abby Walters

Hair

Argued fiercely with my grandmother when she’d say “little girls should have long hair.” Kept my hair above my shoulders until it had been over ten years since she died. Unsure if those things are related.

Have been told it looks: messy when I wear it down, professional when I wear it up, better when dyed, better when naturally colored, better without bangs, better straightened, better longer, better shorter, “too big,” “sexy,” and “like it needs to be brushed.”

Parts

Slept with a small box of stones under my pillow for several years. Before bed I’d rub the stones and pray to not grow big breasts so someday I could act in the Broadway musical Cats. Received small breasts.

I didn’t fully believe there was a hole in me until I tried filling it with a tampon before college. Still didn’t quite believe it was there until I had sex the next year. Feel jealous of people who get to have sex with it. Putting something into something seems more satisfying than receiving whatever it is.

Other

Sat alone on my parents’ bed when I was six or seven, looking at a Christmas ornament of a tiny heart with doors that opened to a scene of skiers. When the doors were closed it didn’t look like there would be anything inside. Stared at my hands holding the heart holding the people and felt something shift in my head.

Previously - The Secret Life of Objects on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in a 24-Hour Grocery Store

@meganboyle