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The jangling nerves and the chain-smoking sparked my metabolism; I lost over 50 pounds. And if I wanted to believe I was worth the trouble of saving, I would first have to pretend to believe that the question of who I was remained blessedly open — that I was not, in fact, the person I had been told I was at all.
I consoled myself with these platitudes, even while I was still convinced they were lies. The requirements that haunted my girlhood were all there: the call to be pretty, pleasing, a surface to adoringly reflect whoever looked into it.
By age 20, I had a drink most mornings before I had my first coherent thought.
The semester before I quit drinking is one big smear; there were incidents. It was the public shaming — the thing wayward girls are always warned about — that I’d always feared.
I could picture it: the noncommittal “Okay,” the slow eye shift, the fumble for the polite exit.
But in dating, that rubric expanded to one great, miserable marketplace in which my wares would be laid out alongside those of other women and found wanting.
It didn’t matter if I dated guys who claimed not to believe in this imaginary marketplace, or in the conventional perfections that eluded me.
The external, it seemed, did all it could to make me disappear. In high school, I finally discovered myself in the three Little Kings beers or the moonshine (it was Kentucky, after all) that I downed in someone’s backyard, in my very first screwdriver.
I didn’t indulge in the kind of open-mouthed, grinding partying that other teens held so dear.
And the more awkward I became — not just the pounds, but the thick, greasy glasses, the hair that seemed to explode from curls into one unified Brillo pad — the more the adults around me radiated disapproval.