14 YEAR OLD BOYS AREN’T THE GOSPEL – For Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week (this year the focus is body image)

14 YEAR OLD BOYS AREN’T THE GOSPEL

The year we held a Madonna competition I was flat chested
Boys said; Asprins on an ironing board
Girls said; You can’t dance with us
The exclusion felt … hot pink and slimy
I wore black elastic bands on my wrists to hide the snub

The year he asked me out because Zoe had said no
He said; Zoe is taller than you, you look quite SQUAT
He said; Zoe has tanned skin, why do you always BURN
He said; You give good head but it’s a shame you aren’t Zoe
I threw up in the bathroom to hide the shame

The year my best friend taught me how to binge and purge
She said; You’ll soon have a waist as small as mine
She said; When you feel sad put your fingers down your throat
She said; Skinny is the new superpower for girls
I quit dance class because I didn’t have the energy anymore

The year I tried to stop giving a shit
I said; Fuck it. I’m me. I can’t be anything else I WAS BORN THIS WAY
I said; I may never love myself enough but I’m damn well not going to destroy me
I said; Hate the image in the mirror, at least love the inside
I said; Someone will always want to put you down, don’t give them the power

The next year I still didn’t wear bathing suits, I still walked with my shoulders rounded
But I didn’t have raw knuckles and I didn’t survive on the opinion of 14 year old boys

A decade later at an art show we meet again, he’s going bald
He said; You look fantastic. I don’t remember why we broke up
He said; I always thought you were the hottest girl in school
He said; Want to fool around behind this Van Gough?
I quit listening and wished I’d learned not to at 14.
What you think is important then, usually is not.
Try to love who you are. Perfect is an illusion and 14 year old boys aren’t the gospel. We don’t all have to be Zoe.

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And that someone was you

Most of my life I had a steadfast rule:

only date people capable of love

who have the courage to show you their heart

preferably girls who wear glasses, have larger hands, broader shoulders

it was a thing you see …

to stop me feeling like a beast

I had been told repeatedly when little

you’re a damn ungainly child

look at your monstrous Frankenstein shoulders

see your long white witches fingers

myopic squinting from behind trees

coke bottle glasses, badly cut hair, missing front teeth

that’s what I see, when I look in the mirror now

the girl with a fistful of neglect and a dragon tail.

I felt like a freak from the get-go

patch over one eye because it was lazy

wetting the bed into double-digits

work on your personality child it’s the only damn thing you’ll have

I was the girl who lived in a coal filled basement

eating would-be-diamonds in French

going out at night picking flowers before they saw sun, turning them into moon shine

then you broke all my rules

in that way you have, that’s unapologetic, visceral and bittersweet

you with your California tan and your miniature temper

you with your indigent words about love and how

some of us just don’t go there

I’d been hiding in my coal mine most of my life

my mouth was blackened from eating rocks, my teeth all broken

you shone a light on me and said

how about being something different tonight?

what would it feel like if you didn’t need promises

what did they bequeath you anyway?

egalitarian, aiming in the same direction all the time

repeat the pattern, more the fool

how would it be, if you left your rule book at home

tripped the light fantastic with me?

I’d built up my arguments for everything

they hung in rows like early Danish tulips

I didn’t want to be an ungainly laughing-stock

didn’t want to be the spectacled girl people rejected

don’t want to be told I was no good anymore

you showed me; if you stop having expectations

just let go, then you’re free

I’d spent my life reacting to what I’d seen

my handsome father sleeping around, my mother’s absence

promises broken, lovers lying, the torture of romance

now I realized, it’s not cute anymore, to keep repeating bad patterns

how about you do what you want for a change?

I wanted you

as much as I’d wanted anything

I wanted this moment

not tomorrow or yesterday

but now

I wanted your cocksure attitude and

the relief of your certainty, things don’t last

I wanted the sell by date and the last dance of the evening

because I’d be the one taking you home

and you, you were fresh-faced and confident

like only a girl who is sure of herself can be

with your straight back and your ballerina’s neck

it took this long to find out; I’d just been following ghosts

not letting myself out of my own trap

to feel the circumference and shine of life, without fear

find in my escape from self-hate, a world outside rules and confinement

something real and

that someone was you

for 24 hours or a year

suddenly time didn’t matter or what people avowed

you see, nobody knows, and nothing is real

except now

you and me

a girl with dragon tail and penchant for seeing

the glitter of sweat on your thin collarbone