June 11th, 2010 - Matthew Mastricova

June 11, 2020

 

 

On June 11, 2010, I was probably wearing a bright yellow or turquoise plaid button-down shirt and olive or blue madras cargo shorts. I knew that this outfit was not fashionable—my social studies teacher had told me so. I had often slept through his class, so he understandably did not like me and I subsequently did not like him. One day he had passed me in the hall and asked if I knew that clashing patterns was not a good look, and I told him I knew (even though I didn’t) and I didn’t care. 

 

The second part, at least, was true. Style meant nothing to me: I wore whatever shorts my mom had picked up at Kohl’s, owned a single pair of dirty New Balance sneakers, and until recently wore mostly dark-colored band t-shirts. Dressing with aesthetic intention never felt like something I had been able to care about until I had started losing weight earlier that year. Wearing bright button downs was a way to signal that I no longer needed to be slimmed down by dark colors, that I had lost weight and I would lose more, still.

 

I had been trying to lose weight for my whole remembered life, but I had finally done it—partly to sublimate my desires for a straight friend (if I could not fuck him, I could at least make body desirable like his) and partly out of sheer cosmic self-hatred. Weight loss was the language that bonded my family over the dinner table and in harsh department-store dressing rooms; I knew no other way to exist with a body other than to wrestle it into a smaller form. I had no goal weight or clothing size in mind, but I was convinced that once I hit a certain point, I would stop hating myself. Then I could stop.

 

Earlier in the year, I had enjoyed imagining the disconnect between the image people had built of me and the way I looked as I wore my new body down the halls. But the week before, the friendship between my straight crush and I had ended brutally and without forewarning, and crossing paths with classmates, especially those we had in common, stoked the grief I already felt. Who, outside of the straight boy and my close friends, now saw me differently? Who had the boy told about our toxic friendship? 

 

I hoped that the brightened color palettes and aggressively clashing patterns conveyed my indifference to these questions. Among friends, though, I was reeling. I had felt too much for him, and with that friendship over I no longer knew what to do with my longing for him. I was grateful that in two months I would leave for college so I could leave those feelings behind.

 

I planned on becoming someone entirely different: someone comfortable around people, who was attractive (i.e., thin), who didn’t care about video games or anime, who had stellar grades and slim-fitted feelings. I imagined a girlfriend. I imagined forging friendships with people who would never know me as a fat person. If my teen-self saw me now, they would be gutted by how familiar I am: fat (again), dorky, socially anxious, hounded by an insatiable hunger for social recognition. How if I think a crush doesn’t have feelings for me, my instinctive worry is still that it's because I’m too fat.

 

My partner of almost six years jokes that I have had the same face my whole life; you could look at a baby photo of me and see exactly who I’d become, Angry Bird eyebrows and all. I think of that description often. So much of what I had hoped to change as an 18-year-old were aspects of my identity that were, and are, foundational to how I perceive myself: my queerness, my passions, the intensity of my emotions. My body, which I have in the past few years allowed myself to treat as more than skin to be sloughed off or hidden beneath hostile pattern clashes. There are even some days when I put together an outfit and think: Yes. Yes, this is good.

Matthew Mastricova is the fiction editor for Third Point Press. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Catapult, Redivider, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.

 

Matthew urges you to learn more about the Emergency Release Fund. Visit emergencyreleasefund.com

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