Dear 15-year-old me,
Let me ask you this:
All the days you spend filing and bleaching and plucking,
All the nights you sleep naked, curing under thousands of gas lamps,
Waiting to be smoother and whiter but not too white,
Waiting to be just a little bit cleaner but not overdone, --
Why do you try so hard to be hairless?
Why do you wrap your body around an iron conveyer belt,
Shredding your skin and nails under the rusty bite of a razor,
As if your monsoon heart could really be extruded through size 00 jeans?
If you should have a daughter when you are older,
Tell her how beautifully her hair is spread across her pillowcase at night,
Remind her how her toenails are shaped like tiny chips of fine china,
Or the way her lips turn bright red from the water in the bathtub.
One day she too will paste together a crooked body
From the shrunken pages of a magazine,
She will cut it out and tack it to her scrapbook of impossible almosts,
She will tug at the skin around her knees and hips and the back of her neck,
She will bend over backward in the bathroom mirror
To see if she can find her ribcage in her reflection,
Tighten a string through her spine and tie the knot around her ankles
So she may walk the way models do, like they are waiting
For someone to time the rhythm of their step to the broken beat of a bass drum.
The same six-foot scientists will teach her how to live
Off nothing but black coffee and cinnamon-flavored chewing gum,
They will introduce her to men who will want to tuck their hearts
Into the crook of her elbow,
Eager to press their sadness into the side of her neck,
So she may sit with her legs double-crossed under the kitchen table,
Her spine curled into the cochlea of a question mark,
Eyes spinning in their swollen pockets,
Searching for a place that she may still call hers.
But when she is convinced that she will never find her home in this red rock,
Before she falls asleep under the pointed sneer of a scalpel,
Remind her that there are other ways to cut herself away from the expectations
She carries like wrecking balls strapped between her shoulders,
That there are unread poems dressed in her name,
Words she has yet to scrawl in spray paint
Across broken boulevards
And freshly poured asphalt.
Dear fifteen-year-old me,
You run an epilator down your chest because you
Do not want them to know what really covers your heart.
Forty tweezers lined in rows of ten, rotating in tandem,
They will leave scars one day, you know, tiny purplish specks on your skin
From where the hair grew inside instead of out,
Curling itself against your sternum
As if to remind you that it is still there,
That it is just as much a part of you as your heart or lungs or skeleton.
But know this:
While you are trying to write your blurb in the tome of the universe,
Know you were not born a bronze statue
So people would want to rub their fingertips against the sole of your lucky left foot.
You are not the promise or the curse or the reason why.
Someday you will love elbows the way you love hands.
You will love the footprints across your cheekbones the way you love
Walking your fingers down the spine of a notebook,
The hushed fervor of the ink,
The puckering pages
That kiss your palms as you write:
Dear 15-year-old me,
Let me ask you this…
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.