Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea
by Chrissy Epperson

I grew up in between
two beacons of femininity:
my sisters pruning themselves
like weeds
to be the same—
painting their faces
still finding no traces
of what the TV and the magazines
promised us
if we aligned with their idea
of beauty.
My mother: a lighthouse
projecting gentility.
A father who oozed
masculinity.
And I, wondering
if this is the body, the person
I was meant to be
with the TV and the magazines
telling me
what to wear
straighten your hair
don’t you dare get any fatter.
And I did push ups
until my arms shook
perfected a right hook
I would never use
because boys are afraid to bruise
a girl.
So I starved the boy
right out of me
to fit into smaller jeans
made for preteens
with no hips.
And my family telling me
‘Don’t give us any lip.
Nice girls
don’t argue and offer no quips.’
And the insecurities took root
inside of me
growing tendrils long and mean
that infected my mind
with tired dreams of beauty.
For years I let them grow
I tended them
through rain, through snow.
And let women
whose ribs
showed through their skin
whose lips
protruded from cheeks sunken in
convince me of their beauty.
How was I to know
that those women and my mother
were wrong
until the day that I left home
while my mother
and the TV and the magazines
kept telling me
‘You would be so pretty
if only…’

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