I am rusty — REALLY rusty — at poetry writing. But this one came to me nearly fully formed while I was in the shower one evening, and I dashed out to jot it down. I’ve tweaked it a little, but it’s pretty much as I first wrote it. Feel free to skip if poems aren’t your thing.
I shudder to think how close Anya is to all this. I am not ready.
I am ready for menopause, because
I have been at war with myself since I was 11.
I tried to conceal my new breasts behind oversized t-shirts,
and my new pimples behind makeup,
and my new insecurity behind sarcasm and disdain.
I remember the day I,
still more child than woman,
looked down at my short-clad thighs on the rubber swing seat,
how they melted together into one big blob,
and I felt shame.
I remember dabbing Clearasil on chickenpox blisters
for half an hour
before I realized they weren’t pimples,
and the relief I felt
when I realized it was an illness and not acne.
I remember the shame I felt
in the girls’ locker room
because I wasn’t wearing the same underwear they were,
and again when I was wearing the same underwear
though I lacked the flesh to fill it out.
I remember the day I apologized to a boy
for the bulge along the insides of my knees
when I drew them to my chest,
and I remember his bewilderment
that I had apologized for a part of me.
I remember apologizing to a different boy
because my breasts weren’t growing
as quickly as other girls’.
and apologizing to a passing stranger
for my too-thin thighs, which had somehow offended him.
When I was thirteen,
I apologized for the shape of the space I take up.
When I was 11, I began to have cramps, but no period came.
All my friends had their periods,
but I just had the pain.
We all wondered what was wrong with me,
though I was secretly pleased, just this once, to be different.
My periods eventually came, of course.
Then I was ashamed of being incapacitated by them,
because I thought other girls suffered as I did,
but worried only about white jeans and swimming,
while I couldn’t sit up without crying.
It was a decade later
before I learned they didn’t —
that there was something wrong with me.
A decade after that,
people still didn’t believe me.
I was painted in shame when I was almost raped,
and actually raped,
with touch-up coats for
every boy I let touch me after that,
because there was nothing left to save for marriage.
The paint became watery and murky
after my divorce,
because I thought by then I’d earned the right
to do with my body what I pleased.
But I was wrong, of course.
I struggled to get pregnant,
and then struggled to stay pregnant,
and they didn’t believe that, either.
Some tried to paint me with the shame brush again,
but the pot was long dry.
Girls (and women) have looked me up and down,
then in a single breath declared
they wished they, too, were thin,
but not so thin as me,
so I would know that neither of us measured up.
I grew up breathing in dissection
and exhaling scrutiny.
I can still tell you the exact measurements of each of my parts,
and what I wish they were.
I find myself wishing for the body I used to hate.
I don’t care anymore what people think of my body
or what I do with it.
I am only trying to make my own peace with it.
These days self-acceptance is the new 36C,
and I still don’t measure up.
Since I was 11, I have been at war with myself
because for thirty-two years
I have been found wanting, and wrong,
and I’m ready to trade my youth and fertility
for the chance to just be me again.