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What The World Teaches Girls

About our bodies

I’ve never been overweight, but I’ve always thought I was still too fat. Because that’s what the world teaches girls.

You’re never as skinny as you should be. Or, if you are, your ass isn’t round enough or your tits aren’t big enough. Maybe your hair isn’t blonde enough or straight enough or maybe your nose is too big, your teeth too crooked, your eyelashes not curled enough. There’s always something that’s too much or not enough. Because you’re supposed to be slim, small, and flat in some places, but big, round, and supple in other places. And you don’t want to be round where you’re supposed to be flat and you don’t want to be small where you’re supposed to be big.

You’re led to believe you need to meet an impossible standard, which is advertised as normal, and so you’re always left feeling inadequate. You’re constantly comparing yourself not only to the celebrity or the model but to the girl next to you in line, on the bus, in the locker room, anywhere and everywhere. You notice instantly without even trying because it’s your second nature now and it always will be: an immediate recognition of all the things she is that you’re not.

My skin is too pale and my belly is too bloated. I’m too short and my boobs are too small. My ass is mediocre at best. It’s there, but it’s not like glute pump there. My skin is too dry, but also too oily and too splotchy. I don’t wear the right makeup or the cool clothes. Even if I do, I don’t have the confidence to pull them off and it looks like I’m trying too hard. I don’t have a bubbly, girly giggle. I don’t know how to flirt or be sexy. I can only ever be cute. But cute isn’t what boys want all the time. Mostly, they want sexy. I don’t look like I want to fuck. I look like I might let you fuck me if you’re nice to me.

And then there are vaginas. Labia to use the correct terminology. Every girl everywhere thinks her labia don’t look the way they should. As if there is really one right way for them to look. We don’t know, though, because nobody ever talks about them. It’s a taboo body part. It’s a word that’s even unpleasant to say, labia. You just know your labia don’t look the way they look in textbooks or in porn or definitely not on Barbie dolls and so you’re forever self-conscious about your own genitalia. You wonder what if boys don’t like mine. You wonder if they’re comparing you to every other vagina they’ve ever seen before. But really, they probably don’t even care at all because all they see is pussy.

The one time I felt good about my body in high school was when a guy friend told me this other jock guy had a thing for me. Apparently, he enjoyed checking out my butt. So then I always made sure to wear pants that made my ass look good even though I wasn’t attracted to this jock guy. I didn’t even like this guy one little bit. Yet, I liked that he liked my ass.

Because his liking it was verification of my body’s value.

I pluck. I shave. SO MUCH time spent shaving. I’ve waxed. Dyed. Painted. Cut. Curled. Whitened. Exfoliated. Moisturized. Hydrated. Scrubbed. Softened. Sprayed. Tanned. Burned. Pushed up. Covered up. Exposed. Lifted. Squeezed in. Strapped down. Blistered. Pierced. Glossed. Tinted. Elongated. Darkened. Lightened. Tightened. De-reddened. Depilated. There’s retinol. Serum. Coconut oil. Balm. Aloe. Lotion. Shampoo. Conditioner. Deep conditioner. Antioxidant. Salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide. Perfume. Deodorant. Peels and pore refiners and blackhead removers and things to make you look older when you’re 15 and things to make you look younger when you’re 30. All the things and all the products. I’ve done them to my body.

My body.

Which is, really, perfect just the way it is.

And yet.

Somehow.

Never good enough.

I grew up looking at sexualized teen idols. Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, dancing in cut off t-shirts, belly buttons exposed. Tan and taut and teen-aged but also singing, “hit me baby” and “rub me the right way”. This is what I thought I should look like. This is what I thought was sexy. But at the same time, we’re not supposed to be sexy teenagers. We’re supposed to be chaste, we’re supposed to be pure, we’re supposed to be angelic. How are we supposed to be both things at the same time? Sexy and pure?

We’re supposed to know how to do all the sexual things. And yet we’re not supposed to talk about them and we’re not supposed to have any actual practice doing them and we’re not supposed to be sluts. We’re not supposed to have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want. We’re supposed to do it on male terms. We’re supposed to be virgins. Our number shouldn’t be too high. Men care what our number is.

We’re not supposed to talk about periods, we’re not supposed to talk about breasts, about nipples, about the things our hormones do, about how it feels when we have sex, like how it really feels, physically and mentally. We’re not supposed to talk about the things we like in bed. We’re not supposed to talk about masturbation. We’re not supposed to talk about giving birth, about what that does to our bodies. We’re not supposed to talk about the tearing and the stitching. We’re not supposed to talk about the things that hurt or the things that are ugly. We’re taught what exactly ugly is and we’re taught to feel ashamed of those things.

We’re supposed to be a Gwyneth Paltrow or a Kardashian. We are supposed to be obedient. Pleasant. Smiling. Giving. Mild. Modest. Compliant. Sex pots.

And all of this plays out constantly. Every day, on repeat. And I don’t even have it so bad, really. I’m thin enough. Pretty enough. Maybe I’m a 7, I don’t know. But I’m fuckable. I know that much. I know fuckable and pretty enough are enough to not have it so bad.

I imagine we can do better. I want our girls to idolize Mia Hamm and Serena Williams and Simone Biles. Not because they are thin, but because they are strong. Healthy. Human. I want them to idolize their mothers and aunts and sisters and not know the names of the Victoria’s Secret models. I want them to know how to lift each other up. I want them to see how beautiful they are just the way they are. And I want them to love their every bit of flab and curve and bony part and scar and birthmark and EVERY SINGLE BIT OF THEM THAT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE ANYONE ELSE and their skin color and their hair, whether it be dark or light or straight or curly or not even there at all. I want them to fuck or not fuck however and whenever they want. I want them to talk about period blood and hot flashes and the shape of their breasts without any ounce of uncomfortable. I want them to see themselves free of the lens of the male gaze.

I want them to have all the confidence and self-love it took me my whole life to discover, and even now, I’m not quite sure it’s all there. Sometimes, I still think I might be too fat.

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