Statistically, most people look at themselves in the mirror around eight times a day; I prefer to go full weeks without seeing myself even once.
Mirrors have never been kind to me. Since first developing the pubescent consciousness that awakens an eternal comparison of the shapes of my body to others, reflective surfaces have spat at me with a kind of acidity that clings to and corrodes the skin. Nothing ever seems to be in the right place; my eyebrows are too thick, my forearms too skinny, my legs too hairy, my jawline far too pronounced… it goes on. On most days, I prefer wearing long-sleeved shirts and jeans that cover as much skin as possible—the less I have to be reminded of what I do not see, the better.
I was brought into this world with an ‘M’ on my birth certificate, given a biblical name that translates to ‘God with us’. Growing up in a traditional, evangelical household, it was a meaning I would be reminded of throughout my life. Often, though, The Lord felt just as absent as any father figure I would go on to have. If there was a God, a being of overwhelming power and warmth, how could such an entity be so cruel as to curse myself and millions of others into living the majority of our lives in bodies and names and expectations we were not meant to have?
I was sure of the feelings I had, but struggled to describe them exactly. Every reflective surface—windows, mirrors, polished car doors—showed me a face I didn’t recognize, a shape I didn’t want. Nothing was where it was supposed to be; I was like a puzzle assembled with pieces from several different boxes—technically complete, but dilapidated, unsightly. Leg hair felt to me like several thousand tendrils rising from my pores, and the faster I shaved them the faster they grew back; the more my body would punish me for getting rid of them too hastily, sprouting pale red volcanoes across my thighs and calves no matter how carefully I shaved or how thoroughly I moisturized. I wanted to get out of my body, the subcutaneous cell that bound me. If ripping the skin off would spell at least a temporary relief from the loathing, I would’ve torn at it without hesitation.