Essays, Non-fiction

Bones

“Regina, every morning, when I wake up, I take my clothes off, I stand in my underwear, and I look in the mirror to make sure they’re still there,” she tells me as I take a sip of my Lagavulin. “Every morning.”

I had a feeling this would be the kind of conversation that would require Lagavulin. It is the strongest scotch on my shelf and I only bring it out for goodbyes and for serious conversations requiring serious alcohol. My assessment was right.

“Make sure what’s still there?” I ask her, pouring another finger into the glass, topping it off with the smallest splash of water.

She pulls her shirt straps down to show me her collarbones. “These. My clavicles. The proof that, after all these years, I am finally coming close to getting the body I want,” she says. “I’m finally going to be hot. Revenge body.”

I have watched her for months; watched her eat like a bird, watched her slow but steady disappearing act. I have watched her make herself small, quietly. A part of me wanted to tell her, you don’t need to do this, but a bigger part understood why.

“All my life, I wanted to know if this was the only thing holding me back from everything I ever wanted,” she says. “Think about it, the people who have everything — they’re thin, they’re beautiful. What’s a brain? What’s a personality in this day and age? What is kindness?”

Everything, I think. It’s everything.

I rest my cheek onto my palm, and I look at her with softness. My eyes say, continue. These are the things she will never tell anyone else, and I know she needs to say them. We have always had this uncanny ability of communicating without actually speaking. She knows I am listening.

A hint of a smile graces the corner of her mouth. “I have to admit that it’s been really gratifying to be told by practically everyone that I look great now,” she jokes. “Who knew fifteen pounds would make such a difference, right?” I quip back. “Twenty, actually.” She shrugs, and I can feel the mirth fade away.

“It’s been great, but I just—” she trails off, looking down at I know not what. Maybe her hands, hands that have always been slender. “I just need to be beautiful so I know that it’s not why they always leave me,” she finally admits. “Nobody ever gives me a chance to love them. They go right when I’m finally ready, to someone else. It’s another possibility crossed off that checklist I have in my head of reasons that no one ever stays, you know? One less thing that makes me not good enough to love. It’s one less thing that’s wrong about me.” She looks at me imploringly, eyes watery with tears I know she will not shed because they are a weakness she will never allow. Not even in front of me.

There is nothing wrong with you.

I could say it, but I know she won’t believe it.

Because late at night, every night, right before I slip into my bedclothes, I check for my bones, too.

I don’t tell her. I don’t have to. We know each other too well.

I wrap my hands around my glass. I drink.

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10 thoughts on “Bones

    • I don’t think I’ve been as skinny as I am now since college, possibly before, possibly never. And yet I look at myself and still see so many imperfections, so many things I want to change, and while rationally I know I shouldn’t have to, there’s always that part of me (and all of us, I think) that’s been constantly bombarded with imagery of what we’re expected to look like that demands this impossible perfection from all of us. (We can only diet and work out so much; some of us just aren’t genetically built to look like that.) Sometimes it makes me happy, in superficial ways, like looking better in my clothes, or feeling a little more confident in this skin I’ve always been uncomfortable in. But most of the time, it hasn’t really changed my life significantly, and I find myself wondering why I bothered to go through all this struggle at all. :/

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  1. Ivy Torres says:

    This made me cry. In most levels, I feel like I’m that person you are talking to. I feel her deep in my bones. Sobrang tagos niya.

    Whenever I get asked why I haven’t had any relationship (It’s like a disease or an abnormality in my age), I just shrug my shoulders. Had I known, I would have been working on it long time ago. But honestly, when I’m done taking a shower, putting on lotion and choosing what clothes to wear, I always look at myself. I am skinny, but not the skinny everyone envies. I am all bones, no boobs. I look like the highschool girl who had not hit puberty real hard. It’s true that a lot of girls want to be skinny and hate girls who eat like a king but never gain any weight. But we are not exempted from feeling the same way. There was a time that I stopped caring about how underweight I am. I unfollowed a handful of fashion bloggers because at some point, I blame them for wanting a body that is with an abs, and boobs.

    “It’s another possibility crossed off that checklist I have in my head of reasons that no one ever stays, you know? One less thing that makes me not good enough to love. It’s one less thing that’s wrong about me.” — THIS. THIS MADE ME CRY. GIRL ETONG ETO YUNG NAFEFEEL KO. Kaya gusto ko tumaba kahit konti lang, magkalaman. HIndi yung sobrang payat, para akong bata. Kaya ka laging na ffriend zone. Parang eto yung sagot, gustong gusto kong maniwala na eto yung sagot.

    “There is nothing wrong with you.

    I could say it, but I know she won’t believe it.” – I have been told many times. but mostly, if not all, by my friends who are girls. At this day and age, totoo yun.What’s a brain? What’s a personality in this day and age? What is kindness? Lahat ng yan to follow nalang. In reality, looks pa din ang nauuna. :(

    HUG!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Ivy, if I could reach through my screen and hug you, I would. I would just hug you. I want to tell you that the right person will come at the right time — I’ve been single quite a while, too, and getting impatient myself. I have friends who are stereotypically hot who have never had boyfriends. So it’s easy to say, ‘just be patient,’ but it’s always easier said than done, and I know how lonely it can get.

      I wanted a body like yours, you know? I wanted to be what my fashion friends call a ‘clotheshanger,’ the kind of body type that looks good in pretty much anything; the kind of body type that can wear high fashion or avant garde styles. But I’m not; I’m genetically predisposed to curves that are difficult to dress. I guess it’s a matter of the grass being greener on the other side. I have very thin friends who are desperately trying to gain weight, too, and it’s just as hard for them.

      That part that made you cry is something I have also told myself again and again, something I have also cried about late at night, when I find myself wondering what is wrong with me when things go wrong with people I’ve begun to emotionally invest in. I always think it’s because I’m not hot enough, or I’m not as pretty; it’s always looks first, because that’s how we’re conditioned to see ourselves from childhood. We both have a plethora of wonderful qualities within us to love, but we’ve been conditioned to obsess about the physical, and it’s hard to break that conditioning. But we have to try.

      And we have to love ourselves. Okay? Sending you another hug through the screen. <3 (Also, I'm sorry I made you cry!)

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  2. Hello, lovely. I’ve always been uncomfortable talking to people about their bodies—not least because it’s not my place, not least because I know all too well how comments (even though they’re meant as compliments, for example) have edge. (We’re assailed from too many avenues as it is, for one: We’re too fat, too thin, too boobsy, too flat-chested, too slutty, too mousy, too made up, too plain.) “Ang payat mo na,” for example, I’ve always found insidious. When directed at you, in particular, I worry. (And it’s a strange worry; who am I, after all?) There is always this urge to evade the weight of the comments of others, well-meant as they are, without (the rudeness of) expressing this distaste: Because though you have lost weight, I’ll try to tell you that you are lovely, I try to tell you that while I’m happy that you’ve set a goal and are going after it tooth and claw, there are so many things about you that brighten my day. That though I find you beautiful to the point of one photo knocking the breath out of me every time the memory of it slips back to foreground, with the curve of your shoulder sharpening and your cheeks taking on a sharpness, I don’t want to settle on just that.

    The point of all this is—I’ve wanted to tell you, quite selfishly, for so long now: Do not disappear. Check your bones every night; I understand that it’s been a labor of self-love. And I don’t discount their beauty, because they are truly beautiful—the shadows they cast have burned through countless screens, including mine—and beautiful things are always due homage: Your bones are lovely and fine, and your collarbone is a wonder of nature and grit—but I do not want simply that of you. Less selfishly: Your are lovely in your bones, but that’s not all of you.

    (I don’t know; sometimes, when I talk to you this way, I wonder if I’ve overstepped. You’ve taught me so much, have been instrumental in letting me grow into this woman who understands her worth despite the screaming insecurities, who has bravado and awareness to back her up, and all that jazz. I, severely anxious sad nutter, know too that that does not mean I can be the same for you, but goddammit, I’m going to try bit by bit every day.)

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    • My dear Sasha, I’ve been waiting all day for enough quiet time to reply to this. You just get it in a way that no one else really has, that I’ve actually internally grappled with myself. I’ve received comments along the lines of, “Grabe, ang payat mo! Sobrang life peg na talaga kita lalo na pumayat ka na!” and while I know things like that are meant to be compliments, they grate on me. Inside, somewhere inside, I know I’m more than a face, and I’m more than this new body, and I have so much more to offer than that. But of course the visual nature of the Internet makes it so that you don’t really notice those things unless you’re really looking; you just see the surface.

      I suppose that’s also why I realized that the timing was right to put up a real website — finally — just for writing. (Or at least mostly just for writing.) Because this is what’s most real about me, because this is what I love (and loathe) most in the world.

      Our souls know each other; I’ve always felt that way, even if we don’t hang out in person, even if the bulk of our exchanges are in writing. We just…get each other. And you just understood right away what I was doing and what I was going through. You saw it: You saw me making myself smaller, scared that maybe I’ve always been too much, figuratively and literally, trying to squeeze myself into a mold that may not be mine.

      It’s not overstepping at all. If anything, I am grateful. Thank you for seeing me. For really seeing me, as you always have, with such clear vision. I love you so very much.

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  3. I love this entry of yours because it’s so true and I can relate (having weight issues myself… especially the “One less thing that makes me not good enough to love. It’s one less thing that’s wrong about me.”) I admire you for being real. Continue writing Miss Regina! I have been a silent fan since your tumblr days. ☺️

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    • Thank you so much! There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of us who feel this way. I just…felt like I had to acknowledge it and let it out so I could start coming to terms with it. And thank you for being around since Tumblr! :)

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