Soft in All the Wrong Places

When the skinny boy who fell in love with the dream he made of you in his mind – and you decided that was close enough – first said ‘tummy’ so sweetly as he touched your softness and rested his head against it, you felt a little more seen and a little less clouded in his foggy fantasy of you.

Cw: abuse, eating disorder

You felt fine that your stomach got larger and your thighs thicker and softer, and you liked being soft inside and outside because it felt nice to be leant on and do some leaning too

. When you had to leave because it seemed you could never be soft enough and his will might tenderise you to a pulp, you decided you couldn’t be soft outside or inside, and softness meant weakness, and softness meant no love, and softness meant maybe he was the only one who’d like your tummy, and softness meant not being strong enough to leave – because could you do any better?

So you finally did focus on losing softness and connecting with yourself, and you felt good – or at least better and healthy and active and it was all good. And it was good.

When the hard-muscled but soft-cheeked personal trainer rested his head on your stomach after graciously going down on you, saying “I could fall asleep right here”, you felt confused. You thought he’d find your softness repulsive, a sign of weakness, a sign of failure and laziness. But maybe he liked his women to be soft and comforting and malleable to his ministrations and will, soft in character and in body to bend to his needs and superiority, and you did, you tried at least, even though your ankles weren’t flexible enough for one of the many positions he tried to stretch you into.

When attractive enough men fucked you then didn’t really make any contact with you afterward you felt normal, you felt untyped, like it was normal for them to find your body attractive, like it was normal to just want to fuck you the way they’d fuck anyone else, hard or soft, kissing your forehead tenderly or spanking your ass and for some reason never asking before placing a hand on your neck which you then had to quickly say no to and they’d take it away. Normal.

When the tall skinny boy kissed your stomach and kissed your hand you felt validated, you felt worshipped, you felt finally like it wasn’t too thick, like it was just enough to be cherished. When that tall skinny boy kissed your stomach after going down, who later asked you to make eye contact while sucking him off, who asked you to go, who when he was trying to give you more money than he owed for the takeaway as you refused said, “You didn’t have to give me the blow job,” and you regret you didn’t just take the money when he didn’t want to see you again since you ended up sitting a computer away from him in the library. A computer away from the tall skinny boy who kissed your hand and fucked your arse and must therefore cease to exist yet persists in all his below averageness – which is by all accounts HILARIOUS, it was not lost on you how FUNNY this was, how funny and entertaining this mortifying moment was, how Fleabag-like it was, very John Mulaney-esque, like “anyone who kissed my hand and fucked my ass needs to DIE” you joke later, how it had to be funny because it was also tragic, and how it made you laugh as you messaged your friends live-time because they had to know how entertained you were and be entertained by you as well, because if your life is such a joke then you might as well be the one making it; you just fancied the anal and he did kiss your hand, what were you to think? And he kissed and held your stomach, soft, with all the tenderness you never imagined but somehow dreamed about, who cares how dull he was if he did that?

When the skinny boy with the wide smile who called you beautiful – both in a sincere way and a way that sounded like his mum told him to call his prom date beautiful no matter what – who touched your hair away from your face before he touched anything else, went down on you without a word and lapped like you were the elixir of life and only touched you tenderly, held you as you turned around in his arms to be the little spoon – you finally did feel little, and you let your stomach relax slightly, worried how he’d react to the softness that so starkly countered his hard thinness. He kissed your stomach too, earlier. You finally felt safe, you felt comfortable. You felt liked, genuinely and innocently and not just for sex or in spite of it.

When you go to hook up with someone you’d seen around the common room and he’d seen you, you feel nervous. You’d never really been with anyone that had seen you around, and the last time they did see you around was when your tummy was so much thicker and your cheeks so much puffier and your breasts were fuller too but not enough to make up for it; plus he knows people, you don’t know how well but he knows people who you know and you worry what he’ll say to them if they ever ask, even though why on earth would he brag or say anything about such a shameful thing as fucking you. So you get to his place paranoid and leave paranoid after being dry as a desert because you’re just so paranoid, because did he actually find you attractive in person, was he wanting to motorboat your boobs like that in the common room? and that’s so weird and is he going to tell anyone and will that be weird? and it’s all so strange even though he’s nice, it just doesn’t add up and you’re too in your head.

When you exchanged nudes in the morning with an insanely hot guy on Snapchat with a ridiculous sleep schedule who you called thick for asking if you were thicc, which he described as being “fat in all the right places,” but still came back wanting more surely because he found you funny – surely not because he found you attractive because look at you and LOOK at him; when he said FUCK after you sent him a pic without your face and saved it, then sent you three glorious nudes of himself as an apology assuring you he deleted it, you felt desired. You felt strange. Surely, he did not just want your body, I mean, look at yourself? Really? You’d have to be an idiot. So you made funny comments which you thought he liked, about how the head of his penis poking out his boxer briefs which – while a tasteful picture full of delicious abs and everything – could only remind you of those little squishy kawaii penis plushies, which he laughed at, and how easy it must be for nurses to take blood from him because goddamn, those veins, which he didn’t. And then he unfriended you and it’s just because you were weird, but if you were more attractive he would’ve been fine with any amount of weird because that’s surely the way it works, he was probably ashamed he even found you attractive anyway and would never be seen in public with you because his strong hand was meant to grip a tiny waist.

When a boy who got into your head by reacting to your Instagram stories and coming over the second time when you said you “aren’t looking for anything serious, but do you want to come over and fuck” doesn’t reply when you see if he wants to go on a socially-distanced walk with you, you take pause and try to think of why you even liked him – other than believing that he might actually like you even though it was now obviously because of the low-effort pussy and your acceptance of pathetic maintenancing as “flirting.” You thought he was nice and not the fuck boy you expected him to be, though everyone turns into a fuck boy when given the opportunity. You’d never been maintenanced before, you never had anyone in your DMs before, at least not after having sex with them. So you tell him he can just wait for the fuck and he says he’d prefer that and really, you might as well keep him around because you might need the human contact and the cock, and beggars can’t be choosers and it’s nice to be able to get sex that you can expect certain things from and not have to go on a walk first to figure out if they are a decent person, and even if they are a decent person they might put their hand on your neck without asking and you don’t like that.

You remember a ‘friend’ in high school who said he’d feel sorry for any guy that ended up dating you. You were too hard and too headstrong and annoying; you were too much. You were soft in body. You were not soft in character.

Then you did become soft in character, you melted to him and let him trample all over you because you wanted to be wanted and it was so new and exciting the way that it felt. To be soft and sweet and loved was proving them all wrong.

You do feel bad for him, he does need therapy, that boy that did finally end up dating you. He needs to heal from his abuse so he will no longer go on to abuse others. You wonder if you had been softer, if you had obediently gone to him as he drunkenly yelled before sneaking up on you at the kitchen sink; you wonder if you had listened, had turned to him and come to him and done his bidding and allowed him to speak to you however before he yelled and screamed it; you wonder if you had been as soft and as small as he wanted you to be, as he made you feel later that night, if you would have stayed, how long you would have stayed. Because you already stayed a day. You finally made yourself throw up last week. You could never actually make yourself throw up before, not on purpose, though you’ve tried. You feel lower than ever and more hateful toward yourself than ever and your body has never been harder. Maybe that was not the softness you needed to eliminate. Maybe your belly which still jiggles, which does not go concave when you lie down, which protrudes when you rest or suck in with all your might, which is shrinking steadily through hard work but bulges out with meals or stress or menstruation – maybe that’s not the enemy; nor are carbs or flabby arms or determined fat on your thighs. Maybe a double chin is not the enemy, maybe stomach rolls or untoned legs are not the demons you make them out to be. Maybe what is too malleable, what needed hardening, is your self-esteem, your heart, your resilience. You were so resilient all it taught you was to crave and need love; once you got a taste it was so easy to forgo any other nutrients, any other form of sustenance, until it turned too sour, until it burned your tongue and turned your stomach. Maybe that’s what you need to throw up and spit out. Maybe.

Elizabeth Greenberg