Dear past me, why are you smiling? Gossiping smugly with your partner in math class, talking about pretty exciting news. You were chosen by a boy. One evening and your self-worth increased to heady levels. Insecurity about your beauty vanished. You are a goddess and he has made it so…
Content warning: sexual abuse, eating disorder
They all know. Boys who never used to give you a second glance. They watch you. Your smile has changed. Coyly, you smile back. You are drunk on the attention, any opportunity to flirt and fondle, your self-worth increases, you feel famous…
But inside an empty cavern is increasing. Your time is for others. All you keep for yourself are small crumbs at the bottom of the bread bin. Time alone is worthless; it needs to be utilised to prepare. Lathering beauty creams over your confused skin, plucking hairs from everywhere. Eating raw carrots, crunching on the grit, trying to trick your mind into feeling satiated. Nail polish and clingfilm clothing, ornate underwear your mother buys you. If only she knew what beliefs it was servicing.
Grades go down the drain and you worry about little spots, starting to appear on your chin as your mind expresses its distress.
They all move out, spreading across the UK in waves, and you are left on a lonely island of time with no goals, no passions, and no people you know. The empty chasm engulfs you, your face disappears, and your eyes shrink as you stare at the arid surroundings.
Self-hatred consumes you, you wallow in the abyss, unable to breathe. Yet you cannot stay like this forever, and one day the reconstruction starts. You try and fail, rebuilding yourself from whisps of air. You figure out how to eat normally, dress normally, and talk to men normally. You learn that it is possible for men to treat you as a person, instead of something to be used. Friendships with women are something else to be discovered; you learn you are not in competition, but there to stand up for each other in this mad world. You discover how to let yourself be known, not just your body.
Dear past self, you deserved better. You deserved to know what was unacceptable, and that it was not a compliment. Dear past self, it will take time and hard work to rebuild yourself; you will make a lot of errors in the process. But keep going. Because what you are building is already beautiful. It deserves the time and craft that you can put in. Male attention does not nourish your soul. Everything you need is right there inside you, waiting to bloom. And I have all the faith that you can make it happen.
Dear past self, you are more than a clockwork curiosity for the male mind. Dear past self, it is not you who is to blame. Dear past self, free yourself from the make-shift cage of male eyes. You deserve better.