They’re telling me to tone it down.
Not with their voices; that’d be too obvious,
like me, but their eyes say
“Wow, your voice really carries,” and
“Did you mean to draw your eyebrows
on so thick?” and
Maybe wearing this bright yellow shirt
wasn’t such a good idea after all but after all
Why did I come here if I didn’t want to be seen?
Go back a couple years and they’re telling me
to speak up, because I don’t exercise my arms
in class so they think I don’t exercise my mind.
Because keeping your nose in a book and letting your head out of this world isn’t good practice for a little girl.
And I guess
all those words really weighed me down, because keep going and they’re telling me to lose
a couple pounds and flatten out my figure
along with my hair.
But not my spirit – that was pretty crushed
with my dreams of being a model-thin-manic-pixie-dream-girl-cotton-candy-princess with
no sugar in her blood but a hell of a lot
in her smile.
I never said I wanted it
Not out loud and certainly not to them
But their looks of mild mingled pity and disgust
said all of what their lips were afraid to discuss.
There’s no beauty and no strength in being ignored and finding your own way when you’re drowning in the sea of people who call you
invisible and ugly in the same breath while you’re suffocating
under the weight of no
Loving yourself isn’t a journey or a climb –
it’s a magic show
a something out of nothing transfusion
an optical illusion
filling others with an I-thought-I-knew-her
You don’t cut others down to build yourself up –
you cut them out, and that hurts more than
anything else but it’s got to be done for you
to save yourself,
because there’s glory in being
your own hero, too.
So that’s how I got here
in this room
in this shirt that’s too bright and makeup too dark
and I thought I’d finally found the part
I was supposed to play, but even the best
writers edit their work
so maybe I’m not as done as I thought, and there’s still more magic coming my way.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.