Each week I will be showcasing the writing of talented beautiful, vulnerable, raw humans in my life. This piece is by one of the truest and deepest friends I’ve ever had. She is raw, real, wonderful, candid, true, and simply one of the greatest people out there in this universe. Read her story and comment, if you so please.
Your face is too long and much too thin. Nose is too big and cheeks too high. (Who knew that was even a thing)? Neck too long, chest too flat, legs too short-> Leonardo DaVinci’s Golden Ratio is perfectly lost and wasted on you. The mirror meeting my gaze is cracked, a chasm resembling Charlotte’s Web delicately fracturing my image into a barely decipherable likeness. Out of stubborness and irony I refuse to replace it, just because something is broken doesn’t render it useless.
This is the lie I tell myself daily, the rationale behind my thinly veiled sanity, the mantra on repeat as one small foot replaces the other. Deftly dancing over the pavement, I walk uncannily quick, one of the few remaining tell tale signs of my short and illustrious collegiate running career. This gait is light and confident, it has a destination in mind, it reveals nothing of the heaviness beneath.
I am 5 years old and those feet can’t touch the floor, dangling from a table at the plastic surgeon’s office. Swinging them back and forth, my hazel eyes try not to focus on the various posters depicting ears, noses, and throats. A nondescript sheet also pontificates the miracle of breast augmentation and what it can do for you, how it can change your life. Narrowing my eyes, I silently sound out the word in front of me, “aug-men-ta-tion.” The pronounciation comes easily enough but the meaning cannot be found within the recesses of my mind. Being able to decipher and expose myself to concepts, ideas, and situations I could not possibly be mature enough to handle or comprehend has always been one of my talents.
“Tilt your head.”
“Look at the ceiling.”
Lights are shone in my eyes, tongue depressers shoved on my tongue, and my ears are thoroughly examined. My features are openly discussed and reduced to numbers, fractions, ratios.
“We could bring the tip of the nose up 3 mm, fill out the upper lip, the jaw could be broken. The result would be a less severe under bite, not quite as prominent of a chin…just a bit of a softer profile overall. This would be especially beneficial in her teenage years.”
At this stage in the game, I am not consulted, I am a passive bystander, swinging my legs and reading about chin tucks as all my future insecurities are discussed. They have not fully blossomed, they are germinating. All I know is that I am not desirable as I am, that I must be fixed, that people often stare, and that no one in my kindergarten class will share their chapstick with me. My stare focuses on a poster on the far side of the room showing what I recognize to be a baby born with my same defect. Inadvertently I shudder and lower my head, I cannot bring myself to look at the picture for long. My chin is automatically raised, a ruler type instrument is placed under my chin to the peak of my forehead. I am 5 years old and have no autonomy. Even though my eyes are closed against the harsh sterile lights above, the image of the baby flashes against the black backdrop of my brain. It appals me. My father always said I was too smart for my own good and one of my first realizations was that I was always doomed to fall short of perfection. But not the kind that women commiserate over margaritas and lament the stretch marks on their thighs while gazing lovingly at their children. I was the kind that had to be chiseled and carved away with a knife over 18 times from childbirth to age 22. And the end result, I assure you, was never worth it.
Thirty years is an odd age. It seems old enough that you should have gotten your shit figured out, but only in theory. The reality is that your refrigerator is littered with wedding invitations, birth announcements, and toddlers smiling faces. Meanwhile last weekend you drank so much you blacked out, spent $100 you didn’t have on 3 cabs trying to get home, and feel slightly lucky to be alive.
Oh–> you mean no one wants to take me as their wife?
Really? I can’t imagine why not.
Truth be told, I can’t recall the last time I was touched by a man sober, the last time I didn’t need alcohol to speak to one. Feeling desirable is as foreign a concept as actually remembering having sex, faces and names blur together in a strange elixir of adrenaline and shame.
“But you have all the best stories,” my friends say in a tone somewhere between jealously and pity, some of them truly wishing they could live vicariously through me.
But only for a night.
If I sit on the floor the crack in the mirror doesn’t interfere with my self image. Sometimes my face doesn’t seem too long or too thin, my cheekbones could pass for model-esque, my nose doesn’t seem too big or my neck too long. I take pride in being small, allowing myself to roll the adjective “petite” off my tongue.
There is something to be said when you take action, just putting one small foot in front of the other. Day after day, you go through both shadows and sunlight–stagnation and self pity have been my most vicious enemies.
I am not 5 years old.
I am 30.
And just because something is broken doesn’t render it useless.
The author, Diane Torsell, is a pilates instructor who has lived in New York City the past 11 years. She attended Manhattan College where she studied English Literature and History and enjoys music, whiskey, coffee, and books in no particular order. She was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and recently diagnosed as a manic depressive with generalized anxiety disorder. This piece is merely autobiographical musings attempting to reconcile the two.