Fallen peanut butter soldiers, armored in chocolate with sugar as ammo, fell clumsily onto the table top. Wounded in transport, their exteriors were thickly coated in a residue of vanilla ice cream.
“Audrey, you are making a mess. Keep the Reese’s Pieces in the bowl.”
“But I was only trying to get them to your bowl,” she replied, a somber look etched upon her face. “They forgot to put the candies in your ice cream.”
I often forget she is only four, that I am her babysitter instead of her best friend. No four-year old can easily shoulder the concept of anyone– young or old– turning down candy. Skipping out on chocolate-coated morsels to dodge demons of saturated fat and Sucralose. Opting for frozen yogurt. Cutting one’s self off at the knees because thin tastes good and skinny even better.
Millions of us are lost somewhere, amidst a slew of numbers on a scale and inches in a waist line. We are pumping conversations, held over skinny lattes, with words like: love handles, nose jobs, Botox, diets. All to attempt gripping a single word, hoping to hear it pounce from the tongues of others: Beautiful.
We begin to wonder (or at least I have): Who is our beauty for? What purpose does our beauty serve? What is up with this word being so exclusive?
Somewhere, yes, somewhere we became slaves to three syllables. Nine letters.
I’ve struggled to declare that word to a mirror. “You are beautiful,” “You look awesome today,” “You are powerful and wonderful beyond measure.” Easy to type. Surprisingly, not so easy to say.
When we stand face to face with ourselves, sometimes questioning if a stranger has come to be a stand-in for our own reflection, we realize how hard it is to lie to ourselves.
We can lie to the world pretty simply. Gorgeous Liars and Pretty Hiders. Hiding behind our Smiles and Make Up. Our Salads and Diets and No Carb Challenges.
But face to face with me, and only me, a dialogue was forced. That tired girl in the mirror had something to say. And let me tell you, I very rarely allow her to speak.
“You make me feel worthless sometimes,” she told me. “You deprive me all the time. Would it kill you to let me have something sweet? Delectable? Something that takes my taste buds out of comatose?”
“Stop summing me up through single body parts: thighs, butt, arms, nose, teeth. You make me feel like I am only worth one word. One Breath. If that. You criticize me but you are the one who gave me the cookies and the chewy bears. It was you. So why am I your verbal punching bag? You poke and prod me and you detach yourself from me. I am trying, can’t you see? I am trying to be loveable enough for you. But you cannot love me, you won’t even try.”
The girl in the mirror is right. So right. I cannot love her without trying first.
“You are beautiful,” I reply back. Timid and shy, speaking as though I am making an offer, a peace pact, that I already believe she will decline.
But the words carry weight and promise of things to come.
To find peace in pieces of cake. Find peace in piecing together a new love constitution with my body. Find peace in the Reese’s Pieces that others drop into my bowl. Tap, tap, tap, against the ceramic of the ice cream dishes. The resounding sound of Love.