You were standing around the corner when a pastor’s wife said, “pleasantly plump,” and your face burned with shame because she was speaking of you.
You are thirteen. A woman because you have small changes happening in your body, but a girl still because you have smaller changes happening in your soul. You alone know the tag of your jeans says size six and you know your babysitter wears a two. She said so when she folded your clothes a few weeks before while your parents were gone for a week.
You feel the numbers between two and six as acutely as you feel your chest begin to grow and your too small face and your uneven teeth. You feel every inch between two and six and you feel the inches around your thighs, your waist, your hips, your chest. You cup your curves and you swear you will not love them. You will hate them until they know they are hated and you will carry the hate in the curves and nooks and shapes of your heart. You will bed the hate there and you will tell yourself in ten, thirteen, & fifteen years that this is why no man will ever want to bed you.
You, a five foot two inch brunette, with clear blue eyes and a smile that fills your whole face when you let it, you grip that hidden tag on your jeans and swear it will not master you.
And it does.
All your life it has mastered you.
When you are 19 and your world falls apart, when death and divorce and courtrooms become your life, you will cook pasta for your younger brothers, determine to keep home safe because nothing else is, you will be a size 14.
When you are 23 you move to a foreign country and you spend every night on the concrete bathroom floor, vomiting and sick, you lose 50 pounds and you are gaunt, thin, a size six again. People will ask you what your weight-loss secret was and you will tell them you have bugs in your stomach.
When things begin to break again and you are 27, you create home and community and try to make it best where you are. You are a size ten when you leave New York. You bike to the grocery store, walk to the coffee shop, you are not skinny, but you love your curves because you are nourished and healthy.
When you are 31 and you live in the suburbs where everyone drives and eats fast food; you do drive but you do not eat fast food. You eat healthy food, local and happy. And still the curves they grow. You eat less and the curves are unloved again. The curves are starving and still they grow.
Those curves, those inches, and the tag on your jeans, they will master you, sweet blue eyed smiling girl. All your life you will feel them mastering you.
I wish I could take you by the shoulders, dear thirteen year old me. I wish I could take your face in my hands, lovely girl. I wish I could turn you around and point to a line of beautiful women, women who are not ruled by the tag on the inside of their jeans. Who are not ashamed of the 10s, nor boastful of the twos. Women who know that they are intricately designed inside, who look around their family and see that curves run in it—that aunts and cousins and grandmothers and mothers wear their curves too.
I wish I could do that for you. The truth is that I can’t. But I can do this. I can tell you that near 20 years from now the mastering of your heart then affects the mastering of your heart today.
Today you looked up at your beautiful roommate, the one who is tall and graceful like a swan, slim with a flat stomach, who can eat anything she wants and never gain a pound: Do you ever feel like you’re not enough? you ask her.
And she comes, sits down beside you, takes your hand in hers and dips her head and asks the God, the real Master, the one who knit you together and crafted you perfectly and knows your curves more than you ever could, she asks Him to be near, to minister, and to show you His love.
So here is what I can tell you, dear girl, He sees you. He knows you. He places you and puts you and covers you and never thinks about the tag on the inside of your jeans. He knows your sixes and your tens and your fourteens and He knows your cells and your biology and your DNA and your genetics.
He knows you.
Written for Emily Freeman’s Dear Me.
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