To a teenage girl who will remain nameless:
You know who you are. Your girlfriends are skinnier than you, and you’re self-conscious about it. I can tell by the way you fold your arms across your chest — like you’re cold.
But you’re not cold. You’re embarrassed. Boys your age show slender girls a lot of attention. And your girlfriends eat it up. After all, who doesn’t like attention?
Anyway, these snotty girls aren’t your friends. Not really. I heard about the horrid nicknames they call you — your mama told me. I heard about how you didn’t eat for two days, trying to lose a few dress sizes. I heard about what you called yourself.
Good God, child. You’ve gone and blotted out the sun. And not that it matters, but you’ve broken my cotton-picking heart.
I once knew a girl like you. She had red hair and a chubby figure. She was smart as a whip and sweet as lavender. She had a timid habit of folding her arms against her chest — like you always do.
High school was hard. Folks picked at her. Even her friends. Senior boys can be downright cruel when you’re not a size one. Senior girls are worse.
One night, some kids made her the tail-end of a nasty joke. They left her on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. They thought it’d be funny to make her walk home. So, she walked ten miles of empty highway until her feet blistered up like strawberries.
I saw her a few years ago. She’s as sweet as ever. Taller, with the faintest streak of silver in her hair. She still gives good hugs, and she still reminds me of fresh lavender.
She has a kindhearted husband, and three children with copper-colored mops of their own. Her eyes are strong. And one thing is certain, she doesn’t fold her arms across her chest like before. She stands straight up.
And one day, when you learn to smile at yourself in the mirror; when you understand this world is full of lost people whose only defense is selfishness; when you understand heartache is part of owning a heart; when you finally throw away your god-forsaken bathroom scale.
You’ll stand up straight too.
You won’t be a teenager anymore.