Tragic Beauty

Tragic Beauty


“Oh, how I wish to be so small, people think I am disappearing,

I want to be a tragic beauty.”

I haven’t ever been able to write about my eating disorder

In a way that captures how “tragically beautiful” I felt at the time.

I will never be able capture that feeling

Because now I only feel the whisper in my ear from time to time,

It’s no longer a numbing scream that drives me crazy

 

When I go back to that time, I remember

How strong I felt, that I could look a cookie in the face and say

“No thank you.”

If I had only looked at my friends’ faces as I uttered those three syllables

If only I had been able to see myself through their eyes

Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a close call

Maybe I would have realized

That the cookie was not my enemy, after all

 

There’s a blonde-haired celebrity, and she’s all about that bass

She said she tried anorexia for a good three hours,

But she wasn’t strong enough, so she quit

 

Wow, I wish I could’ve quit my eating disorder,

If only I knew it was so easy!

 

Look, I get it, there’s a lot of fat-shaming in this society

And I know that it needs to stop,

But you know you can boost yourself up

Without throwing others under the bus

By telling us that the bones poking out of our hips and shoulders

Are meant for dogs, as if that’s all we deserve,

As if that’s all we’re meant for,

Because “real men like curves”

 

Cut that shit out!

 

I am worth more than any man or woman

Who would love me based only on my body,

But if you think I am defending the idea of being a tragic beauty,

Then you’ve got me all wrong

 

Let me make this clear:

 

There is nothing beautiful about wearing two sweaters

When it’s 70 degrees outside, just to keep from shivering

There is nothing beautiful about side-eyeing the boy

Who’s got grey skin, his ribs trying to rip through his flesh,

Lying to yourself that that’s not you in the mirror,

It’s someone else, someone who’s got skeletons in their closet,

But wait, it is you, and there’s only one skeleton,

It isn’t in your closet, it’s out on display for the world to see,

It’s looking back at you in the mirror,

You are not the tragic beauty you think you are,

You are the skeleton

You are a half-dead shell of the person you will be in five years,

And even though you don’t think you’re gonna make it that far

I am standing here to tell you that yes, you are.

Honey, you can be beautiful without a tragedy attached to it

 

I softened myself into something malleable

Which isn’t even all bad, except that now

I’ve taken on so many different forms,

I’ve forgotten I am a solid, not a liquid or gas

Forgive me if my shape gives me away

I thought we stopped caring about shapes

In the second grade, for god’s sake

 

And for god’s sake, do not dictate to me

What I should and should not be doing with this body

You didn’t care before,

Remember how I starved for your attention?

Well I don’t need it now because I am nourished

Because I am making myself whole again

 

But I still care about what strangers think of me,

Look at this body, look at what I am putting it through for you

I compress my chest into a different shape for you,

Even when it’s already hard to breathe

 

So forgive me if sometimes I am not

The man the world wants to see,

Just consider that I already feel like

The boy next door looks more like me than I ever will

 

 

With this poem I am trying to communicate a point about communication, and how we say things to each other. Words can really hurt us, and affect how we view ourselves and the world around us, particularly when it comes to self-image. The way we talk about eating disorders is one area that is particularly rocky; how do we promote body-positivity without stepping on the toes of those who don’t fit the stereotypes of beauty? In this poem I explore these questions, while also subtly connecting my own experience of an eating disorder with my experience transitioning from female to male, and the implied stereotypes of ideal body image for men and women.

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