No, I'm Happier.
There it is.
I poke at the skin, careful to not pop it, but enough to make me aware that I did this.
This is probably the half chocolate-cookie I had yesterday.
Yes, I am obsessing over what I ate. Again.
I know! I am not cured, honestly: and you know that. I just don't feel that heavy weighing guilt on my shoulders because of what I eat or what I do. Or what the number on the weighing scale tells me.
The demons inside me still taunt me when I see a point go up: You're eating too much, you fat bi-
I shut them up before they damage me irreversibly.
You did that.
You made me realise that they were lying to me.
My demons lied to me.
I remember I used to look deep in the mirror, looking for the slightest blemish, the shallowest stretch-mark, the lightest pigmentation. I thought I looked like Nanny McPhee before her glow-up.
I know I'll never have that glow-up, for God's sake.
The roll of fat in my midriff when I sit, the dark hair littering my body, the scarcity of toned body muscle: I have every single flaw you can think of. I didn't take photos. I was not in the photos. I didn't want to record how ugly I thought I was.
I got mad when people put up their camera to click my photo. I wanted to snatch their phones away, as if clicking my photo would out me to the damn CIA. You know the worst part? I can't even remember how I looked when I was fourteen. I look at the photos my parents clicked forcefully, and I do not recognise the girl in those photos.
Was I that beautiful? Even that ninth-grader thought herself to be the ugliest girl in her class.
Looking back now...
I wish I had that photo with my friends at my high school's farewell party. I wish I had the video where I laughed unashamed: even if it was for just one second.
I remember deleting photos because I saw a blemish on my face. I remember applying the beauty filter to the maximum in every photo my family insisted on clicking because I wanted to be remembered as a perfect girl. I remember starving myself at parties because the pizza had too much cheese or the time I leaned out my window at night because I felt suffocated. I couldn't breathe.
I couldn't breathe because I hated myself. I hated how I looked, I hated how I felt, I hated how I was made fun of... I hated everything.
I hated being me.
"Don't be in a relationship 'til you're 25," my father said, and I smiled, nodding.
'No one would want me anyway, Dad,' I thought to myself. Perhaps, it all started when this boy called me fat when I was five years old. I didn't want to correct him. He was right. I was well aware that I wore clothes bigger than my age. When I was 12, I remember standing in front of the mirror and pulling hard at my cheeks. It had hurt, but it made me realize my worth. "No one likes you," a girl had said that day.
I just nodded.
Slowly, as the years went by, I got accustomed to it. I made peace with it. I knew that I couldn't be loved. "No one will love you unconditionally except your parents," my mother had told me one day when I cried because of a 'friend' who commented on my appearance. "They will always have an ulterior motive, my child, never forget," she had said, stroking my head affectionately. I had nodded, understanding every word.
I knew I couldn't be loved. Every picture was flawed. I daringly took on social media, only posting photos where my face was as little as possible. Every photo had that flab of fat. Every picture had its flaws. And though no one commented on it, I knew everyone saw it. They were probably laughing behind their screens, calling me all sorts of names.
I thought I couldn't be loved.
Then I met you.
"Oh my god, you look so beautiful here," you said, looking through my gallery after you snatched my phone from me. I lean forward towards the screen, seeing a close-up photo my mother clicked on my birthday.
"I am not asking you to compliment. You don't need to lie," I said, extending my hand to take my phone back.
"Now, you're just fishing," you said, zooming in on the picture, making me wince.
"You'll see all my flaws. You will never love me," I thought.
"You look really pretty. Post this, please! I am annoyed with all the zoomed-out photos you post," you whined, sneaking an arm around my waist.
You made me smile at that moment. A genuine, self-loving smile. For a millisecond there, I did not hate how I looked. That day, you grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet. You took me to the college grounds and made me pose for a photo. I smiled wide. I smiled gratefully. When a tear of joy escaped my eyes, you asked me what was wrong but I shook my head, hugging you tight against my body.
My flawed body. But you never called me flawless. You just thought I was perfect.
You fought for my blemishes. You loved them, you thought they made me real. You hugged me whenever I met you. You made me feel loved. You told me I looked hot. I laughed at you but you remained serious, repeating the compliment. You took my photos. You told me to send you selfies, whether or not I felt I was pretty.
You made me feel prettier. You made me love myself.
When I said how grateful I was to you, you laughed. You told me you knew that I loved you more than I loved myself. I staggered at the truth, and you smiled.
"Everyone loved you, but yourself," you said, hugging me. I sighed softly, my gratitude melting into another dose of self-love.
I want to tell you something.
I take photos now.
I click those annoying, candid selfies. I smile wide and I press on the shutter button. I don't scrutinize myself in the mirror. In fact, I love mirror selfies. I don't hide the flab of fat. I don't put on a filter to cover the marks on my face. Yesterday, I posted a selfie on social media.
"You look prettier," a girl from high school messaged me.
"No, I'm happier," I replied, thinking of you.