By Kassandra Flamouri
Every morning and every night, I present myself for her inspection and wait as her eyes carve across my cheekbones, over my chin, down my body. She slices into every curve and holds it up on a fork for inspection, like each ounce of flesh is a piece of meat she’s not sure is worth the calories.
What is she looking for, that she stares so? She hates the very sight of me, but she can’t look away. My nose is too blunt. My hips are too wide, my breasts too flat. That spray of acne across my shoulders, the ripple of cellulite on my thighs—it’s unsightly. Unacceptable. Unlovable.
She tells me so every day, and who am I to argue? She’s not a mean person. She didn’t always see these flaws. She used to look at my legs and see the speed and fun vibrating in each scabby, stubbly knee. In my rounded belly she saw the sweetness of laughter and ice cream. She used to love that my shoulders were strong enough to carry a sister or a friend.
But now my shoulders are too masculine. My stomach is bloated. My calves and thighs bulge against unforgiving fabric. Everything is wrong, she says, and it must be true. But how did it all change? When? They crept up on me, these ugly little deficiencies. Every day she found something new to displease her, things I never thought about before. The ragged edge of my cuticles, the little hairs on my toes, the length of my fingers. I never knew. It never occurred to me to look. But now I see them, and I am ashamed.
She doesn’t stare like this at anyone else. She tells her friends they’re beautiful. She means it, too. She thinks their imperfections make them perfect. This one’s scar is a badge of honor, of survival. That one’s height makes her stand head and shoulders above the crowd. She loves them. She accepts them.
So what’s wrong with me?
We face each other through the frame of my prison. As her eyes narrow, so do mine. My pinched lips echo hers. I hate it, and I hate myself. I can’t help it. Her thoughts are mine, just as my body is hers, and she hates me. I’m helpless, shackled to her judgement more securely than any slave to his master. But she…she is free to choose.
She could choose to see the beauty in me. She could choose to treat me with the same compassion and gentleness she spends so lavishly on others. But she doesn’t. She won’t. Because she’s a good girl, a modest girl. She believes the voices in the world outside, the voices telling her that a girl can keep no love for herself. She gives and gives, but perhaps one day she’ll remember that she hasn’t given away her power to choose. Perhaps then she’ll choose me, the girl in the mirror.
Kassandra Flamouri’s work has appeared in venues such as Timeless Tales Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and FewerThan500. She tutors high school students in critical reading, grammar, and essay writing. More information can be found at www.flamourifiction.com.