Seconds and Thirds: On Putting Back the Middle

It was my last night watching Eva Grace before we hit the road again.  The time before this, she was hardly talking.  Now, she was all ringlets and ideas.  We read one last story three times, and I sang her that song I had written when she was just ten tiny toes and diapers.  Finally, I was closing her door.

“Goodnight, Eva Grace,” I said.

“Goodnight, Miss Mallory,” Eva said to me.  “I’ll see you when I’m bigger.”

“I’ll see you when I’m bigger, too,” I said.

I don’t know why I said it, though.  All I have ever been doing is trying to make myself smaller.

I forgot until my Someone and I visited for two weeks.  Two weeks at my parents’ house is enough time to stir up all sorts of nostalgia.  And also enough time to conjure old fear.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, a three panel cabinet above the sink.  And right where one panel meets the other, a section in my middle disappears.  My arms are still there, and if I stand just right, I look perfectly proportional.  Except skinny.  Skinnier.

After my childhood baths and showers, I remember creating time vacuums standing there, willing myself small.  I counted it as motivation.  I counted it as something to work toward.  But all I was doing was cutting out my middle.  And no matter how perfectly aligned I stood and how good it looked, it was still disproportionate.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years later, standing in front of that same mirror, finding myself again in the same crevice, I furrowed my brow.  This middle of me that was missing was missed.  I moved to the full center panel.

That’s me.  Complete.  I smiled.

“Goodnight, Mallory,” I said, “See you when I’m bigger.”

I have a friend who is amidst carrying her fifth child.  She posts occasionally beautiful pictures of her pregnant self, openly reassuring that she is still someone who is lovable for who she is and not for what she is doing.  I mark “like” on each one.  Not because of how she looks, but because of who she is.  And this friend, she reminds me and the rest of the internet that her body isn’t something to be dissected, not to be laid hands on, not to be commented on, but that she is a person in there.  A full person.

Lately, I have been taking up exactly the amount of space that I am.  I have stopped apologizing for taking seconds.  I’ve stopped explaining my love of late night snacks.  Instead, I eat when I am hungry and laugh at the funny jokes that are being told over dinner instead of eyeing the last potato and wondering if I am deserving of it.  I don’t have to eye the last piece.  It’s already on my plate.

I am building up my middle– I am making sure that it is full.  And I am finding that the less I apologize, the bigger my insides are getting.  Soon, I will be able to say what I think right when I think it, instead of wondering if anyone wants to hear it.  Potentially with a mouthful of peanut butter tofu.

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