As part of a positive enhancing self-image exercise, I was recently asked to describe myself to someone who may not be able to see me. This piece is a bit of prose and what I have written and how I understand myself to be perceived.
I am a girl. Or woman? I am not sure whether I am an angsty teen, a transitioning adolescent, or someone “mature” for my age, or a mix of the above.
Have you heard that girls mature faster than boys? Well, it has nothing to do with maturity and all to do with expectations adults have of us. Maybe that is why my mom and I are the same height. Both stunted by our self-created and all encompassing goals, but just tall enough to see over our own needs; meaning, we address others lives, problems, loves, and losses over our own. Ours can wait until a quiet moment that never comes.
So I am the height both raised and squashed by others. I have a round face in which the bones and my skull keep the size of a child’s soccer ball. Not quite the big-leagues but one that has grown with the years, one that is still sturdy enough to be kicked around and inflated — but that ability might be the resilience of my youth.
My hair is the color of a healthy pine bark, but shines like a film that has developed over your coffee when you let it cool with milk in it. I keep it at my shoulder length so the thinness cannot be noticed when I pull it back. But it’s strong: you can find full strands all through the drainage of my home.
My forehead is the length of three fingers, as they may be held to the sky to measure when the sun will set. They reach down to my eyebrows. My eyebrows are long and flat, they run the length of my eye and can be easily manipulated to give a frustrated or inquisitive glance. They are darker than my hair and can be covered now and then by my hair when I try to hide my face in disappointment or shame.
My eyes hold an innocent and doe-eyed nature. The color changes based on their interaction with natural light. They can be the color of a fresh frost on a lake, or hydrated moss enjoying the dampness of a humid environment, or they can be the color of a richly flavored whiskey which burns your throat if their gaze is held too long.
My nose appropriately holds its distance between my eyes and can be crinkled to help me reveal an anxious look. My nose is its own landscape of bone and cartilage which replicates the movements of mountains in the Sierra Nevada. The mountains that can be felt and engaged with as you kiss the summit.
A mountaineer can also move to my lips, almost constantly dry like the Mojave and swollen like a too-disturbed fault line, threatening to move and to shift at any given moment. A teasing opening into my body, which like fault lines may only be explored and known by those who hold the credentials to know my darkness. These lips, plumped by a burning gloss at 13 years old hold as many secrets as our communicative, providing mother.
My lover’s lips may move from mine to my shoulders, which have the width of an uncomfortable hug — “do you squeeze my stomach or caress my neck?” Their boney outsides move to plump arms, ones which can easily activate the yeast of a bread dough or carry a heavy-set pen across a page. However, recent events have caused them to ache after I brush my teeth, because I scrub too hard.
My hands, still seemingly adolescent. They can hold the hand of a baby with ease, but struggle not to get lost in the comfort of a man. My fingers are swollen enough to hold a ring or two, but too large for more. My nails carry the jagged edges of nervous snacking — a nasty habit which threatens disease and my teeth.
My chest holds small breasts, easily supported by a wireless bra and which fit easily in the palms of many suitors. They don’t cause my back trouble, as it has its own. My back carries the trials of burns from the sun. A good or bad memory — your choice.
My stomach cinches slightly above my belly button and may remind you of a bottle which narrows for easy lifting. The front of my stomach pokes out slightly, similar to a knot on a tall tree. Both objects seemingly made to be held and hugged until their contents are thoroughly drained.
My hips and ass, often a highlight for others as they tour my body with their eyes rather than words, are akin to those of your aunt who enjoyed her bread and her wine, she would let you play between her legs to escape the plights of whomever crossed you into the refuge of adults.
Though my legs have not yet been used for hiding by a child, they can be easily wrapped by others. As you might wrap a healthy loaf of homemade bread in a cloth. They change shape as you can imagine the differences of types of bread, for they adapt to the activity of my circumstances and grow as I do — in height or wisdom.
My calves, the front side similar to a 2x4 when you hold its widest length in front of you, possibly to be nailed in place. To me, they seem as abused as a thrice used board, but unlike the one in your hands, mine will heal from wounds and bruises as needed.
My feet, which start with swollen ankles and end with stubby toes. Have you ever held a sprained ankle? That’s how mine begin: swollen, tender, and full of fluid. My feet are as wide as a balance beam, the same one you let your daughter walk on during her journey from infancy to childhood. My big toe, the Capitol building of my toes as no others may stand above it. The others taper off as a sentence does when you notice people stop listening.
The above pages carry images made of feelings. For that is all we are; we perceive ourselves based on fleeting moments of judgement and comparison. Although one feeling of mine remains the same. I think my smile is as warm as when you step from a shadow into the direct sunlight and you bask in unconditional warmth.