[Words by Amy McGuire (she/her)]
CW: body image, implied sexual harassment, body dysmorphia, self-injurious behaviour
On Sunday, she looks in the mirror and realises it can all be taken apart. All of it.
She starts with the shoulders. Her grandmother always hated her posture, and besides, the surest way to become a #girlboss is to look confident. Powerful. It said so, in that article she read, and it’s all over Instagram. She knows, instinctively, that when she reaches for her shoulders it will work. Her fingertips land on the flesh there and tug backward, and each disc of her spine slips out, clicking back into a new place. Better.
Much better, in fact. So why stop there?
Bigger eyes. The man in the hardware store last week was much more helpful when she opened her eyes wide and explained that she had no idea what size of screwdriver she needed. Bigger eyes, all the better to be seen with. A delicious tornado begins to swirl in her chest at the very thought of being watched.
Onwards. A smaller chest – or is it bigger now? She can never remember which one is en vogue, the correct way to be seems to change with each new day. Maybe she’ll try both, alternate the days – witness the reception, and adjust it based on the number (and enthusiasm) of compliments she receives. Everything can be whittled down to a statistic, even self-esteem.
What started tentatively becomes intoxicating, vicious. Her hands join together and scoop, grab, push; joyous toddlers in a new playground. Bones dance around each other and interlock, set anew. As the freshness of her face and her body sets in, it is not joy she feels but the gentle sensation of relief, which starts as a warmth in her chest and seeps down the length of her newly elongated legs. Hasn’t this been what she’s hungered for, from the moment she found out she was a Girl? Isn’t this what we do, anointing ourselves into the giddy sisterhood of the Seen? Yes, this is good. This is how it is supposed to be.
When she leaves for work that morning, she doesn’t know that she is not alone in her newfound powers; others can change too. She doesn’t know that watching eyes can sprout hands which in turn sprout fingers that stroke, and then poke, then tear when ignored. She doesn’t know that at the end of the day, she will look in the mirror and see that it can be taken apart – all of it. Fistfuls of hair coiling like ringworms on the floor, eyelashes plucked and falling in an ashy snowdrift; teeth ground to stumps and limbs torn from limb. Her torso folded and folded again, smaller each time, until she is nothing but imperceptible and they can never have her again. For now, though, she leaves for work and she knows she will be seen – she will be something. In that moment, it’s enough.