i witness pictures of a “relaxing” woman and i think: it is funny how they see us. in the movies under the shower, the actress stands with shaved legs, leaning into the water, opening her mouth with a sensuous sigh. our sleepovers are supposed to come with bras and tight panties, laughing our painted lips over pizza you don’t see us eat. we take walks in the park in good heels, look excellent after running, always have a gentle smile on our pristine faces.
an artist draws a piece about how women alone don’t have to be sad that they’re alone, they should relish in it, which i thank him for giving me permission to do. the result of his work is half-nude ladies draped like linens over their couches, flashes of thigh gaps and open lips, breasts swelling pleasantly, a yawn and a stretch that shows off her hipbones.
the only evidence i have that i’m normal is considered comedy. our reality is comedy. lying in bed under three covers, bra off but sweater on, laptop positioned directly under lack of a chin: that gets a laugh. in the movies, the quirky girl in a cute-ugly but somehow flattering pajama set gets caught at the supermarket and it’s a nice romantic scene where we find out how awkward it is for her to exist without makeup, without her best effort to please sexually. she sees her boss or her cute friend or whatever else makes us laugh and cringe and the next time we put on “real clothes” before we go out shopping.
the real world exists somewhere outside the picture of women. we come home and strip off our bras, but instead of that being a still image of a delicate female stepping away nude, it’s a moment of our peacefulness. the narrative so often stops here, us heading our improbably slim legs to the bedroom. but instead our breasts don’t always hang evenly, instead some of us do not have breasts, instead we swipe a hand over our tired faces and smear our makeup but are too lazy to take it off. our bodies crack and crunch and do not stretch like a cat but instead in weird directions, we rush out our breath and slouch and barely keep our eyes open. we lie with our thighs touching and our stomachs hanging because it’s comfortable. we sling ourselves undainty over whatever will support our weight. our showers consist equally of staring into the void as of unflattering angles while we wash; our bodies never come pre-shaved and for some reason our underarm hair is really persistent or our leg hair is dark and shows even after shaving or maybe both. our sleepovers mostly feature netflix and wine, getting food on our faces, eating until our stomachs make round pleased hills, talking trash and swearing up storms more than we paint our nails. we don’t go to the store in cute-ugly clothes, we go because we forgot to buy tampons or we dropped all our rice on the ground or because we’re human and we need supplies to survive.
there is a very strange body-positive rule where somehow, we always end up under the slogan “beautiful.” our loneliness, our adulthood, our moments where were are not even being judged – i should remind you that those are beautiful too. but the truth is that you don’t need to be beautiful. and these moments in particular, that belong to you: they’re yours, they don’t need to be told that they exist in some plane of desirability. who cares if they’re ugly, if they’re truly self-serving and unflattering and indelicate. when you are home, you are finally human, returned to skin that itches in awkward places and ugly habits and it’s okay. they won’t show you a version of that without laughing about it, but we are real, we don’t keep ourselves perfect in even our peaceful moments. it’s okay. i know you might be worried what happens if you get a partner or roommate and they learn you live this way, that you’re messy and forget to brush your teeth sometimes and get food all over the place when you eat and i’m telling you: you’re not unusual. you’re just human, and these moments aren’t somehow shameful. they’re not untouchable and unspeakable because they’re not pretty. because instead they’re human.
we aren’t here to be watched, and we don’t need your approval.
we weren’t created to always please. sometimes we get to take a break from beautiful.