You’re laughing with your friend one seat ahead of me, the stem of your wine glass poised effortlessly between your stupidly slender fingers. As if ordering wine at a dive bar is somehow très chic instead of très cost ineffective, like the maroon maxi skirt hung low on your hips which just so happens to match the impracticality of your liquor choice was a happy accident in painting the perfect picture of you. Your hair is long and thick and almost brushing my knees and I hate it. Makes me irrationally angry, like I could dropkick a turtle. Makes me all too aware mine is knotted like my stomach while I watch the guy I went to dinner with glance in our direction, thoughts too involved with his casual mentioning that you two “used to be involved” to enjoy the Lagunitas creating a charming puddle in my lap. I bet you don’t even drink beer because it’s fattening. I hate that you’re not fat.
I don’t even know you. But I’ve known women like you. Ones I’ve built up so much in my head the only solution is to tear them down, their names branded in my memory more vividly than the faces of the men I thought I was competing for. Strangers I’ve never met except through accidentally left public Facebook photos, vague histories I’ve tormented myself with by making too graphic, too real, too much my business when they were so not my business. Women whose bodies I’ve used as vessels for my own loathing, begging friends to convince me I’m prettier—crying because I don’t believe them; crying because I know it shouldn’t matter.
To you, and to all those women: I am so sorry.
I am sorry for turning you into the worst kind of muse, the kind only capable of inspiring childish ill will. I’m sorry for resenting the inane idea of “eskimo sisters,” fixating on the curve of your breasts, the width of your nose, the space between your thighs simply because the same man once parted the way between my own. I am sorry for ever implying the length of your skirt could speak volumes louder than your actual voice.
Please forgive me. For while I could blame the media, past lovers, long harbored insecurities—I know there is no excuse for such behavior. Forgive me for all the times I’ve cut deeper than your physical beauty—hoped you were stupid, prayed you were unlovable—merely because I feared those things about myself. Forgive me for thinking a strong woman’s presence was something to be afraid of; shoved aside; undermined by sick facades of admiration while I struggled to figure out what someone could possibly admire about me.
It’s common to tell those worried about relationships they must love themselves before they can love someone else. But regardless of the language I use to speak to myself—the hyper critical native tongue I practice every day waking up in this body and mind and refuse to silence—you deserve so much more than that. I don’t even know you and yet I know you have struggled. And sought affection. And perhaps even thought poorly of me, the random girl sitting behind you glaring helplessly at your goddamn ridiculously lovely head of hair. And I am sorry for ever believing thinking less of you could possibly bring out more of me.
I often feel as a woman my existence is meant to be an apology. This is the one time I mean it.