To my mama,
I remember being forced into swimming and track practice at the age of four, I remember tennis being added on top at seven, then karate at 10, and basketball at 11. I remember being punished for eating. I remember being dragged by the ear to the salon to get my hair done. I remember being shoved into a nutrition clinic at 12 when all your other attempts at making me skinny failed. I remember waiting countless hours at the dermatologist’s and the following visit to the pharmacy to try some new ridiculously expensive “treatment” so I could be “pretty”.
Most importantly, I wear the cutting words you threw at me in your frustration on my skin.
You wasted so much money buying me expensive jewelry in the hopes that it can make me appealing when my body, my skin, and my face failed.
Growing up, you would always tell me I’m pretty. Pretty came before intelligent, brave, or even kind. Pretty came before anything else, it was the first thing you told me when I came home with a bruised shoulder at 9 because my bully pushed me down the stairs, it was the first word that came out of your mouth when I broke down because the boy I liked did not like me back.
Body dysmorphia is something you have brutally acquainted me with. You shoved your beauty standards down my throat as if the world did not do it enough. Some part of me realizes that you were trying to build me up.
I know you, mama, I know how much you value intelligence and cunning and strength of character, I know you did what you did to make me strong, but mama, why did you insist on making me into a glass house when you had the tools to help make me into an iron fortress? I know you wanted me to fit in, I know it was your way of making sure that I understood what the world was all about, but why did you not make me stronger mama, when I know you could have? You would have saved me years of struggle.
With every cruel word, parts of me shattered, and I wasted so much time wallowing in their brokenness – my brokenness. For years, I starved and binged systematically, losing insane amounts of weight, only to gain back double what I lost, screwing up my skin, my hair, and everything else.
Some days I feel like I want the ground to open up and swallow me whole; other days I wake up feeling like the most beautiful thing to walk the Earth, most days I am too busy, too tired or too angry to really care. I know my worth is divided between my beauty and my productivity. I was raised to believe that beauty, above all else, defines who I am as if I am responsible for what I was born with. I have learned though, through countless rejections and endless heartbreaks, that I am so much more than what I look like.
I learned that it is never too late to start over, that I have enough power in me to build up the iron fortress I wish I was, piece by piece, even if it takes forever. I am not my sleek hair or my fat rolls mama, nor am I my thunder thighs or my acne scars. They are a part of me, but they are not who I am. I feel so angry because you were in my shoes someday not so long ago.
Why did you not spare me this pain? Why did you insist on being set in the ways of your ancestors? A petulant part of me wants to ask you if you didn’t love me enough, but I am thankful anyway. I did not give up as you have; I am building myself up as you should have. And I know I will stumble and fall, but I also know I will always rise back up. Healing does not happen overnight and I will do my very best to constantly remind myself that I am more than that one word. I would also like to thank you for instilling your thirst for knowledge in me, it is my saving grace.
Through it, you taught me what it means to be compassionate, kind and hardworking. You taught me that the values of life are learned through living through others. I only regret that you did not teach me or point out to me the most important value of all – that I am worthy of respect, joy, and love, no matter what I look like or what mistakes I have made.