Age seventeen. "You're so naturally beautiful," he said, his voice like honey. "I mean," he clarified, "that you're beautiful without makeup. You're not like other girls." "Thanks," I replied, watching the blur of my mascara-blackened eyelashes bounce with each blink, out of the corner of my heavily-lined eye.
Age 27. "You're so cool! I can't usually talk to women about other women," he laughed. "Uh huh," I said weakly, still struck by nausea after remarking on the aesthetic appeal of yet another woman's body, for his approval.
We are to be sexually appraisable at all times. We must devour our food despite being thin - our flat stomachs must never betray the life-giving nutrients we absorb.
We must effortlessly shine with an even, perfect glow - our smooth, pore-less skin must never betray any sleepless nights of stress and emotion, or the story lines that our lives tell.
Finally, we must regularly view each other through the always-fuckable lens that was bestowed upon us by our forefathers. Hold up the mirror but don't look too close; she is only a pretty shell that I can point out to him. It's like bird watching, except you get cool points.
I gave up on being unlike other girls a long time ago. I began to find it strange that I cut pieces of myself off for these men, all to avoid being like the women who never wanted me to be anything but whole. Whole in my imperfections. Whole in our shared traumas and joys. Whole as we welcome even these men who are ready for change. Ready to slough off the damaged skin from their desiccated boyhoods and soak in the authenticity of their own vulnerability.