I remember the first time you saw me naked. You asked me if I would like to "get stuck together through the hurricane". I was excited that mother nature had given you an excuse to break from your constantly busy schedule. I bought delicious food to cook. We played, and you showed me more guitar techniques than my mind could grasp. I loved the way you watched me as I sang.
We went for a walk by the waterfront in the torrential rains. You asked if I was okay, thinking maybe I was a tamer soul. I pointed to the Benjamin Franklin bridge and asked if we could go up. "No, that's probably actually dangerous right now," you warned me. I restrained myself from telling you my momentary fantasy of being blown over its guardrail. For three seconds of illusion; I felt the freedom of falling, being consumed by the Delaware river, and oblivion. Then I snapped back to your smiling face. You kissed my cheek and asked if I wanted to walk more or go home.
We made a wide loop around Old City, through the historical buildings. We waxed on about how different the city must have been throughout the generations since they were built. We talked about our college years, our past loves, our parents and siblings.
By the time we came back to the apartment, the sun had set. We were soaked. I asked if you wanted to take a nice warm shower. "With you?"
"Sure, why not?"
"I didn't know we could do that," you blushed.
"You never asked," I smiled.
That was when I was new to you, like a toy still in its original packaging. Before you knew every inch of my topography with your eyes closed. When it captured your attention every time I took my clothes off or put them on, if just for a second. Until one day I put my chest right beside your face and waited for you to react.
"Hi," I smiled.
"Hi... You feeling silly?"
"They just missed you."
You poked an index finger in each, as one might to a child's cheeks, "You're silly."
I playfully pouted, "Don't you miss them?"
You wouldn't play along, "They're just boobs."
I huffed away. "You're a boob," I whispered beneath my breath.
I can remember wanting to wear a bra as a child, but my mother was always weary of my rushing into adulthood. It came as a surprise to both of us- One morning, I was getting ready for school. Still half asleep, I sat at the kitchen table, eating my breakfast. My mother caught a glimpse down the wide necked collar I was wearing. She gasped, "Echo!" cupping my minimal mounds in her hands, "You need a bra!"
I recoiled, feeling embarrassed and alarmed by the sensation of having suddenly been felt up for the first time- by my mother!
"Why didn't you say something?" she asked.
I was speechless. How was I supposed to know I needed one? I always wanted one, but she would become irate when she caught me playing with her bras. I kept quiet, afraid that she would rescind the offer to finally allow me to have one. "I don't know. How would I know?" I shoved the remainder of my french toast into my mouth and grabbed my shoes. "The bus is coming. Love you. See you later!"
As I ran to the end of the driveway, I held my breath. At the bus stop, I exhaled, and large smile crept up from ear to ear.
I have boobs.
I pulled my hands out of my sleeves and into the body of my jacket, trying to discretely feel what they were.
I do not know why... Perhaps because so many people in my extended family struggle with their weight and health. In my mind's eye, I thought I should be slender and petite. Until puberty came, I was always one of the smallest children in my classes. My wardrobe was largely made up of various hand me downs from cousins and classmates. Being a size or two smaller than the rest of my peers felt normal.
By fourteen, I was spending at least three of my evenings after school at a community dance studio. My mother had put me into the program the first year the teacher, Natasha had started it. I recall signing up, they asked me if I wanted to study ballet, jazz, or tap. There were eight girls in ballet. One in tap. I chose jazz. The next year my mother saved enough money for me to add tap. The following year, Natasha found a way to make all three affordable for my mom. After that, I would be her oldest and most loyal student. She stopped charging us for classes in exchange for my services as an assistant. She insisted that I add pointe lessons.
My pointe classmates were waifs. They had legs like skinny Barbie dolls. I wondered how their ankles did not snap under the pressure of standing on tiptoe.
My thighs and calves had become muscular and firm... and thick. My mother shuddered to see large stretch marks scattered around my hips and buttocks. "How did this happen? I never had stretch marks until I was pregnant!"
"I don't know," I blushed with shame.
What's wrong with me?
I tried to moisturize them as she instructed, but they simply would not fade. I would cringe to be seen in a bathing suit for the next ten years... Until the women my age would often have their own stretch marks, usually acquired during pregnancy, but not always. I stopped looking at glossy magazines... I began to live in the body I had and not the one that I had imagined.
I stopped thinking about it, worrying about it. Happenstance. In Ardmore, I began to take long walks around the park. When I moved into the city, I began to bike everywhere. I met a yoga instructor who wanted vocal lessons. We traded. Food, food, food... I gave up soft drinks. I began to drink more water. I only ate meat when I craved it or it was being served to me. I consumed as much fresh produce as I could afford.
...Then I fell apart and went to the hospital.
When I came back, I had no appetite. I wandered around the city on foot and bike until I was the thinnest I have ever been. At last, I was petite. My dresses draped down where my chest had once perked up and out. My thighs didn't rub against each other as I walked.
My cheeks caved in. My hair was thin and brittle.
This was how Victor saw me for the first time after months. I felt so small in his arms that first night he held me again. He was also thinner than ever.
...Months later, as we were getting undressed one night, he pinched my bottom. I felt a twinge of embarrassment for the inch of flesh between his fingers. "Hey!"
"What?" he made a playful face.
"You touched my chub."
"Yeah? So?" he waited for me to retaliate but instead saw me get sad. Caressing my curves, he soothed me, "Baby, you were a twig for a while there. I'm glad to see you're finally comfortable again."
Comfortable. Yeah, I was finally comfortable again.
I poked him in the gut, "I'm glad you're enjoying my cooking again."
...I watched you and realized... It was not me you had lost interest in. You were simply not in a boob mood. That temptation was satiated for the moment. You were not looking at other boobs. I caught myself taking everything personally, when it had nothing to do with me. You were occupied with your work again, and I had no reason to overcompensate or feel insecure. I turned my attention back to myself and my work again. I meditated and did yoga and Reiki.
It was during one of these practices that my mind unraveled.
"They're just boobs." I suppose that was what he thought before he knew me; when someone else was his girlfriend, and he did not see me the way he does now. Now everyone else's are just boobs. These are the ones that he loves, touches. I should count my blessings he can see beyond this superficial feature.
...and something strange happened; I felt more comfortable in my skin. I liked seeing myself in the mirror a little more, and the person I saw in the mirror began to reflect who I wanted to be.