I remember sitting on the closed toilet, the porcelain cold on my bare thighs. It was summer and all I wore were spandex shorts in neon colors. It was the 90s. The heat from my tears poured off my skin. I hated myself, my body. I was 9. I remember my parents standing at the door knocking, begging to be let in to where I had locked myself away.
I found out early that ignoring someone is the best way to get their attention. No, that’s not right. Hating yourself is the best way to hear “you’re beautiful.” No, not that. I cried. I cried and cried and felt the pit inside me opening up deeper. I went to sleep fantasizing about losing a limb so I could lose, what, 10-15 pounds?
My father crouched next to me, wiped my tears with one hand while the other clutches my favorite picture of myself. In the Florida Everglades, seeking alligators, my father had snapped a photo of me just as the wind blew a whisp of hair across my cheek and the pink of my jacket accented my natural glow. I thought I looked beautiful. I thought I looked just like his sister, my idol, my godmother.
"Look. You’re so beautiful" he said and I still couldn’t believe it. "You are." And I cried more into my palms, wiping tears and snot on my legs.
"I’m hideous, dad. Fat. Ugly. Everyone at school says so."
"No, Lorelei, you’re not. You’re beautiful, like aunt jan."
And my confidence unfurled like a ribbon over the next thirteen years, tattered and strewn across a living room floor the day after Christmas. I didn’t know it then, but between steroids for asthma and the taunting of children, my brain became a rain cloud of confusion and told me lies.
I wish in that moment I could go back and hug my 9 year old self and tell her I am fine. That we are not skinny, but that it’s okay, no one makes fun of us anymore, and honestly, if they do, we don’t care. Everything is fine. Everything will be fine. It’s good that you’re weird. Only interesting adults come from weird children. I just want to hug her like my sister and tell her I love her so much. No more hiding in bathrooms. No more worrying about what people think. We got this. We are strong. We made it.