Recently, I’ve been fascinated by people’s relationships with their, and others’, appearances (and/or perception thereof). Including my own.

I don’t particularly — or try not to — identify with how I look. That isn’t to say I don’t take care of myself; I tend to feel ready to CONQUER when I’m showered/shaved/clad in $5 thrift store overalls.

Occasionally, I’m lauded for my looks, which I’m mostly indifferent to. (“You should be a model!” = an oft-repeated exclamation I hear from acquaintances and strangers, because my frame is tall and thin — two arbitrary physical qualities people think they want. Nice sentiment, but posing under makeup and trick lighting is effectively the opposite of what I want to do in life, which is present myself honestly, instead of as a flimsy fantasy-façade whose value is predicated upon looks. At 16, the above statement provoked paranoia that classmates who said it were in on a gag I wasn’t. Anyway, modeling isn’t a real job. (A less complimentary remark vis-à-vis my slenderness: “Feed Emily.”)) I’d rather be described as “interesting” than “pretty.” Not that the two are mutually exclusive.

In middle school, I wore drugstore reading glasses over my contacts due to my shitty eyesight, as well as braces on my teeth and knees. While none of the above phenomena are inherently unattractive, they, along with my then-flat-chestedness, exacerbated my view of myself as a **plundering ogress.** Thanks to optometry and orthodontia — a Herbst appliance to correct my overbite — and my eventual outgrowth of Osgood-Schlatter disease, I am now mercifully free of 2/3. I don frosty pink plastic specs as I writeth this.

As a teenager, endemic with perfectionism and self-deprecation, I often felt at odds with my body. From seventh grade on, I compulsively picked at the skin on my face until it bled, a condition I later learned is classified as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder known as dermatillomania. I wasted years criticizing every discernable aspect of my anatomy — the shape of my nose, my tits, the rosacea/eczema/psoriasis that reddened my cheekbones. Concurrently, I practiced taekwondo, ran cross country, swam and rowed crew, garnering little appreciation for my body as an instrument for implementing ACTION.

In terms of “enhancing” my features, I’ve rarely been interested in makeup. Experimenting with Robert Smithesque kohl eyeliner, as pictured, or ruby lipstick has historically elicited thine boredom. (Which isn’t to disparage those who use makeup as a form of self-expression! Caveat: I grow wary when people wear makeup to hide their “flaws.” I’m critical of the cosmetic industry for fostering and exploiting young girls’ insecurities.)

Howezzah, I adore cutting ’n’ coloring my hair to assuage ennui. In April, I shaved my bleached head to a buzzcut using clippers and a #1 guard in my bathroom. I’ve developed an interest of late in spangling mesirch with vintage and secondhand gems (shall I don a rad turquoise/gold-paisley/leopard-print silk jacket? checkered jumpsuit? together, perhaps? AFFIRMATIVE).

My skin is decorated with ink — a Venus symbol stick-and-poke I applied to my ankle with a sewing needle and India ink in my childhood bedroom when I was bored; a feather quill tattoo atop my foot representing my penchant for writing; the Roman numeral XXXVIII under my neckline for my family, comprised of members both biological and acquired. These brandings all denote fundamental facets of my personality. For months, I wanted a phoenix on my left forearm to cover healed self-harm scars.

From late August 2015 to July 4, 2016, I struggled with self-injury re: cutting. I performed epidermal slash-and-burns to convey tangibly the invisible inner turmoil I felt in my mind. My right hip, left wrist and the soles of my feet borne evidence of this behavior. Some such wounds have faded to oblivion; others have not.

Like many/most, I have a complicated history with my physique. Furthermore, and more imperatively, I’m a fucking multifaceted human being with ambitions, interests, et al. I just can’t identify with an assessment as one-dimensional as — complimentary, I get (… or objectifying) — “beautiful”/“sexy.” So, (wo)men, if you want my attention, try talking to me, instead of lobbing platitudes my way that I’m likely to dodge. I am not my shell.

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