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.
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