his hands wander trepidatiously below my waist and i push away immediately. it is a reflex test i pass with flying colors, the practiced body geometry of an obtuse angle formed to keep my body shielded from contact or visibility.
please don't touch my stomach.
after he leaves i stare at myself in that unforgiving bathroom mirror throwing harsh light in sharp chiaroscuro off the swells of my body- the only angular lines on this humilating canvas. and i realize i haven't felt the texture of my clothing in five years. i've been swaddled in shapewear, cocooned and contained in lycra and latex and nylon and spandex, living in a state of constant compression. i have adjusted to a baseline discomfort that follows me from day to day like chronic pain, the omnipresent background noise of being uncomfortably warm and tattooed by seams. the physical complement to a mental malaise.
and i think that all the literature in the world about self-love and acceptance can't change the reality of my reflection, the instinctual animal fear that sends ephinephrine slamming into my bloodstream when the threat of physical affection reaches the dangerous boundaries of embarrassing flesh. please don't touch me. please don't look at me. no matter how i reframe it, the photo is the same.
it is four years and ten thousand dollars and half a million deficit calories later and there are still days i think that maybe i will never have a normal relationship with my body again. that i owe an apology to the boys who've loved or endured it over the years. that i will always be searching for confidence and comfort in the hollows of my collarbones and the peaks of hipbones, searching to remap this terrain over and over again. that there is never an endpoint, a goal weight, a final measurement that keeps me calm- just an ongoing circuitous journey that brings me back in front of the bathroom mirror, paced to the beat of that enduring mantra. good enough isn't good enough.