I always knew that I would be a curvy girl, even when I was eight years old. My double bed seemed massive then, like a boat in the center of my bedroom,and I’d sit in the middle, or more often stand, to see my whole body in the vanity mirror. There were turns where round bumps would eventually develop, and I’d like to imagine this. I would crawl off the bed into the top drawer of my dresser and pull out a pair of orange socks. I’d tuck them between the polyester of my baseball jersey and my cold, little nipples, and I’d shape the socks into breasts. I’d touch them, and watch myself, wanting them to grow, closing the door so that my mom couldn’t see, the same way I closed the door when my barbies would have sex.
I could tell the potentiality of sexual identity far before I ever became a tween. It wasn’t pronounced, but more like an energy, that perhaps others could read. I sometimes felt that adults, especially male relatives attending birthday parties or other family gatherings, could sense it, but I didn’t really know what “it” was. It wasn’t visible in my dress, which was more often than not a sports t-shirt and a pair of neon colored shorts, or in my personality, which was silly and innocent, but rather, it was in the thoughts I had, which I wasn’t fully able to understand.
As a very young child I can recall my mother picking me up into her arms, and me asking her to pull the dress up so people could see my bum. I saw it in a drawing in a storybook, a young girl whose mom was holding her in her arms, her dress bent out of shape. I did not know why I wanted anyone to see my stockings, but the thought of it was so wildly entertaining and satisfying to me.
When I was five years old, I remember my brother’s friend Robby coming over to play video games. I can still recall his tan skin, how tall he was, sitting and staring at our T.V. screen from the red sofa. I remember wanting to kiss him, or at least be close to him. I took my father’s 1980s tape recorder, with the little microphone, and recorded a song, in which the lyrics were “I love Robby. I love Robby. Yes I do.” Whenever he would come to the house, I would run into the room to see him, to be seen. This was peculiar to me, but nothing made me more happy. I remember being just as happy at six to have my cousin Craig lead me around in the pool, at eight for Brad on the baseball team to make me giggle, for John in my class at school to smile at me. The feeling of love was pure, simple.
By ten, I was making out with the white walls in our living room. The walls were so tall, and clean, and seemed to engulf me in a magic space, an emptiness waiting for warmth. I wasn’t sure what I was actually doing, but I felt as if I kissing more than a vacant space, but another energy, possibly an energy that loved me back. Sometimes I followed the energy to the bedposts and rubbed against them, but I knew any kind of interaction there wasn’t exactly “right” or, instead of making me feel happy, sometimes it made me feel guilty, or strange. So I didn’t do that anymore. The emotional risks were too high.
There is a peculiar picture of me that is still on my parents’ dresser. I am ten or eleven years old. I have a floor length dress on. It is Easter and I am in my Nonna’s living room. I am smiling, charmingly, and I am also pulling up my dress, just a bit, so that one can see my thigh. I remember that day. I had on pure white tights, and I thought that my little, plump thighs looked beautiful. Really, truly, amazing. I was in love with my thighs, more so than I probably ever would be in my life.
I wonder about that purity now, that love of my body in the mirror, that excitement in love, and where it might have gone to over the years. I remember the last moment I felt it; I was just about to turn fourteen. I had make-up on and a baseball hat and I was at the supermakert. While picking out some tomatoes for my mother, I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflective mirrors above the produce, and I was inspired by the beauty reflecting back at me. It was a moment of vanity, but a healthy one, my perfectly shaped mouth and eyes were shining, my skin had not yet broken up– I was half child, half woman—and I was gorgeous. Soon after this something went wrong. I began to brush my teeth in the dark, ashamed of my changing reflection –it became my business to ridicule my body on a daily basis, to hate it. This hatred took over , for me, for most of the women around me. I would become punishing to any positive thoughts I had about my frame, laughing at myself for wanting to show it off, as if I was in a cycle of infinite jest. I became part of the “women hating club” of females, sitting around tables, talking about fat deposits, fad diets, and looking like shit. I wondered where the love went, the amazement I use to feel at looking at my body. I am reluctant to believe it might ever fully return, or if small nods of self-approval are all I will ever give to myself, my baby image lost indefinitely in the bedroom mirror of my elementary years.