After trial and repeated error, I have realised that family conversations on dinner tables should definitely be banned.
I remember telling my father one evening that I planned on joining the high-school football team,
See I promise I come from a liberal family, we eat beef, and believe in free speech, and basically do all the things the RSS shouldn’t see,
but I can’t believe that he said to me, “how will you ever explore a career in modelling with all those scars on your knees.”
“Dad, I’m about twenty kgs overweight, with the full potential of growing my own beard, I really don’t think that’s going to constitute the weight of my problems.
I mean there’s literally a weight of problems around my waist,
so I doubt I’ll be wasting a chance at future photo shoots.
And as you can probably tell, I also really like puns, so be careful because one day I WILL write a poem about this.”
I never told you mom, that I went to bed that night on an empty stomach, after dinner.
Learning how to empty myself of shame was also an art I learnt at home,
and on the school playground, and on dates I never went to,
asking if they kept a bigger size in their secret, hidden storeroom,
helping romantic leads get dressed for centre stage in college plays
after you asked me out on a Wednesday,
it was about to rain,
It was a dare you said, I still remember.
Understanding that we lived in a world where it was seen as an act of courage to love a fat girl,
Where people could only love you when they compared your curves to mountain valleys, your hair to liquid sunshine, your eyes to a twinkling galaxy
because real bodies were only beautiful if we could make metaphors out of them
somehow forget that we were touching real skin and scars
my stretch marks are not tiger stripes, they are, I mean, stretch marks.
Even attempts at body positivity require you to objectify yourself’;
the less ugly a conversation is, the easier we can digest it.
Keep it down after dinner, talk in riddles and euphemisms till my body is a story you can appreciate,
a piece of literature we can analyse, a paper we can submit to be published
See people are so much easier to love when you don’t really have to love them,
living with yourself doesn’t afford you the same luxury.
Do you let him love you, with the lights on?
I never told you mom
That the first boy I kissed didn’t even know my name
I was trying to find the light at the end of a vodka shot in a dark room
Because one night when I was walking my dog under the watch of a full moon
A drunken man came up to me and told me he loved me
And then he tried to touch me
I was thirteen and knock-kneed and fell as I tried to run
I learnt never to trust the moon again
or my legs
or men, who told me they loved me before having sex
I never told you mom, but that night you let me go out and explore the city alone, I walked back home with a muffled scream at the back of my throat
it’s always there, waiting to slide to the tip of my tongue,
twist like the fear in the side of my gut
arrange and rearrange itself – till it sounds a lot like the word Help.
I never told you, but I clutched my car keys in between bruising knuckles till I made myself bleed
see they never taught me in high school that human beings are a lot like sharks,
they can smell blood too.
And they will only be done with you until your body shapes itself into an apology,
spit like used gum on a sidewalk,
a question mark in foetal position,
wondering what you did wrong.
My body is a contortionist who never practised in the gym
so it breaks trying to bend itself into the blocks of shapes they handed out in kindergarten
I never quite knew which box to fit my soul into, for the girl who wore shorts till the 11th grade,
Maybe you were more man than they’ll ever be.
More woman than could be contained in crossed legs,
more unicorn than human, more strange than a stranger
more messy home than fancy house
more stretch marks than tiger stripes
more football star than supermodel
you said, I am fat
and I said no, I am so much more than that.