When I was about 13 years old, I used to ride the bus home from school everyday with this girl who lived in one of the apartment block buildings in our complex.
She was thin, so pale, with large brown eyes and the longest, curliest lashes you ever saw. Her mouth was a little wide, and she had dimples. I thought she was gorgeous – all the girls did, in fact. She was so pretty. Looking back as an adult, I can see she was painfully thin. Her bones jutted out at the collar, shoulder blades and wrists.
It was the wrists, though, that I used to feel inadequate about.
I would squeeze the skin around my own wrist tightly, so it wrapped around the bone, wishing my bone would point outwards like hers did.
I told myself if I skipped breakfast and lunch every day for a month, I would get to that stage.
So I did. I took one green apple to school with me everyday, and did not eat breakfast or lunch for a month. I lost so much weight that my uniform hung off me like a sack.
When I compared my wrist to hers in the bus, though, I did not see my bone. What a fat ugly wrist you have, I told myself, squeezing the skin back to see the shape of my bone.
I am 28 now, and I think of that story and feel very sad and angry.
What business does a child have to be worrying about the size of her wrist bone when there are mountains of books to read, tonnes of trees to climb, hundreds of puzzles to solve, heaps of games to play?! Why wasn’t I thinking about those things? Why was I so hyper focused on my wrists? I was clearly built heavier than that girl, both of us beautiful in our own child-like way.
I think and think and remember girls talking about diets and weight loss and spots and who was fatter than whom and how much everybody weighed. So much shame in a number. We also played games, we tore through corridors and played KINGS and netball and amazing games of hide and seek in the maze-like grounds of our school. Yet when we went back to the classroom and stood in front of the air conditioning, guzzling bottles of ice-cold water, our conversation went back to who was pretty and which hair salon her mother went to.
I see children being mislead, somehow, and I can see how that has clawed its way into adulthood and adult life.
This obsession with appearance.
This lack of adequacy.
I don’t need to say I am grateful we didn’t have phones or social media back then. We all know what children today are subjected to.