In the mornings, I must traipse to the bathroom. There I’ll be, every morning, laboriously shaving my legs or curling my eyelashes. I have twenty minutes to become in control and composed. I must be judicious about my flaws in order to protect myself. I have learned by heart the number of freckles on my cheeks and the precise angle created by my protruding left thigh and it seems like I have been staring at my reflection in the mirror since I graduated college and couldn’t find a job. The way my armpit skin folds into itself is beginning to make me anxious. The negative space between my legs has decreased, and so has my self-worth.
I am a freelance model, now. Mostly, I do nail-polish advertisements. There is a lot of pressure in my industry, especially due to my extensive interaction with the leg models because they are so beautiful. Yesterday, after a photo-shoot, I encountered Linda Holtz putting on her lipstick in the pink bubble-wrap bathroom. I called it that because the tiles had these sort-of three-dimensional rounded edges like they were full of something even though I knew they were full of nothing.
Linda was pouting in the mirror, not paying attention to me and the water was running. I was staring at her legs. Her knees looked like Salvador Dali’s elephants’ but maybe slightly more bony, if you can believe that. They tapered off into miniature tree trunks with vines and veins. The way things worked was, our photographer, Michael, took separate pictures of my foot and her leg. She is known for her legs, and I have been told my toes look like dainty cream-puffs. Afterward, the photos go through a process that is called, in technical terms, “editing.” Mine and Linda’s collaborative efforts sell a lot of nail-polish.
I am a happy, well-adjusted person, according to my therapist, who told me a few weeks ago, and last week, that it is completely normal, and even desirable, to cry every day. I find myself following her advice often. My parents’ insurance will run out in a few months when I turn twenty-six, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity for self-improvement afforded by my tendancy to impulsively binge and violently purge. This is the second Ph.D. named Kelley who has told me what my feelings mean. I resent her less than the first Dr. Kelley, mostly because I don’t have as much energy to fight her. I am too busy being photographed. Did I mention, last week my feet appeared in Teen Vogue?
The anger that fueled my vigorous protests against being normal in my late teens and early twenties has dissolved and dissipated, so that now my anger is nothing more than a vile odor lingering above my head. My head has not become quieter, but I never talk back anymore. I can’t muster anger. It’s much easier to contain things. But actually, yesterday afternoon, Melvin and I had a argument that sent me fleeing to the bathroom.
Outside the bathroom, Melvin was inevitably sitting and waiting. He rested in his reclining chair as I peered at my reflection in the mirror behind a closed door, pulling at the skin on my stomach, turning sideways and sucking in, stepping on and off the forbidden scale that I keep hidden under piles of towels and empty Lysol bottles in the linen closet. Melvin was finishing a crossword puzzle. “We have to go, Diana, are you almost done in there?” He tapped his pencil rhythmically, furrowing his brow and looking out the window as the sun crouched behind a tree that was embarrassed by his mis-directed attention.
Then I wretched, wanting to rid myself of anything and everything. And when it was finished, my self-loathing, my scream for help, I stood. And before any waves of anger broke, there was be relief because any bad feelings had been eradicated and flushed away. But then National Public Radio sounded from the other room as I applied soap to my middle and pointer fingers, scrubbing harshly as “All Things Considered” buzzed from where Melvin sat so I officially knew that it was 6:30 and we were going to be late for my publicity event. You’d be surprised how quickly people can identify me based solely on my toenail shape. I swallowed my bubbling anger, gargled, and spit contempt down the silver drain. It’s more appropriate to keep things in, I thought. A two-inch piece of wood separated the two of us, and it might as well have been seventy-four miles of barren land because he really didn’t want to know what was going on behind the bathroom door. It’s a personal thing, he might think, I really don’t have any business being interested.