When I was fifteen, I refused to fill out surveys on MySpace that asked anything related to kissing or drinking. Those words become taboo, completely off limits. Not because I particularly feared kissing someone or knowing how it felt to consume alcohol, but because I’d never done either of them. Rather than lie or broadcast to the world that I was “uncool,” I avoided it altogether.
I thought that nearly every girl who wandered past me in the hallways could see through me. Like a frosted glass. Not entirely clear, but once you squinted, all the smudges and scratches were intact. To them, I might as well have been a black and white cutout in a colored world. The piece of a jigsaw puzzle that didn’t fit, no matter how much you wedged it in.
And that right there might be the reason so many thirteen, fourteen, seventeen, twenty-five year old girls hurt themselves. I thank God that I never went down that path, that I did not let myself take a piece of metal to my bony wrists, watching red liquid pool at the bottom of the drain. I thank God not because there is something wrong with the girl who believes that to be her only outlet, but because I don’t know if someone would’ve known. If someone would’ve stopped me.
If I could lose twenty-five pounds in eighteen months, what else could I have concealed? I’m afraid to answer that question.
I have not known too many girls who sliced that metal through their skin, but part of me desperately seeks to understand. Perhaps by letting part of their insides out, they could filter the bad and keep the good? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Maybe it was just to remember they were alive. Just to take the internal pain and externalize it.
What I do know is that my heart breaks for these girls. I’m not your average hugger. I don’t reach out for someone and pull her close instinctively. I’m the girl who stands with her hands jutting into her waistline as someone else squeezes the life out of her. As she fights to breathe through all that love. But I just want to give them a hug right now.
I want to track these girls down and sit them in front of me with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and have a heart-to-heart. I want them to line up one by one and each individually file into my imaginary office, sitting on my couch for half an hour until I’ve begun to understand.
“Write me letters,” I would tell them. “Whenever you reach for that blade, pick up a pen instead. Keep your hands busy, your mind active. Write until your wrist aches. Let that be the pain.”
And maybe I would spend my days with a pile of letters from girls. And boys. And I would write back, and we would have a conversation. Because this is the sort of thing we need to start conversing about.
If tomorrow I wake up to an e-mail or a message or a handwritten typewriter letter from a girl who wants to share her story, who needs an ear, I will close my eyes and take a deep breath.
And then I will begin to tackle it with an electronic hug of sorts.