I am sitting in the library, minding my own business, trying to memorize some terms for my Media in Society midterm coming up on Wednesday. The room I am in is relatively quiet, aside from someone vigorously typing and the chorus of faint sniffles coming from the back, musty corner of the room.
Two girls walk past me and I hear them whisper, "Those polka-dot pants are really ugly." They both snicker as I sit unfazed in my chair. A moment passes. I think, Are they talking about my pants? I look around frantically, trying to find another human who might be wearing polka-dot pants. I should have known that the odds of that would be slim to none, given that, well ... polka-dot pants.
I stare down at my legs: short and propped up on the nearest table. I take a moment to register what just happened. My favorite pair of pants, the pants that I felt most confident, comfortable, and unique in, were just shot down by two strangers in an environment in which I'd just been peacefully coexisting. My mood was immediately shattered.
Ugly. Why did it have to be that word? The word "ugly" and I don't get along very well. One could say that we've tangoed a few times. Most of the time, Ugly has a partner in crime: Fat. Ugly and Fat occasionally have an accomplice that goes by the name of Dumb. When I was younger, Ugly, Fat, and Dumb were the kryptonite to my Superman. Today, these villains still haunt me. They sneak up on me when I look into my mirror, they mock my size when I try on clothes, and they make me second-guess everything that I do. However, I do (and have done) everything in my power to not let this show.
I leave the library as quickly as possible, afraid that my huffing and puffing will draw more unwelcome attention. I call the campus transportation service. Once I've arrived at my dorm building, I hold my breath in the elevator, survive an interaction with my RA, and make it to my room. I look around. My thoughts race a mile a minute. I mentally pick apart my entire room, boiling over in a pot of my own self-judgment.
You know in old cartoons when there is a little angel on one of your shoulders and a little devil on the other one? My little devil kept saying, "Do it, do it, do it, do it," while my little angel would retort with a "Don't you dare look in that mirror, Hannah, you're better than that." Back and forth and back and forth went the little shoulder-dwellers until I caved in.
There I stood. Staring at myself in the mirror. My mind swelling with negativity.
"Wow. Nice stomach. Maybe that's why the pants are ugly."
"Now that I think about it, that arm fat doesn't go with those polka dots, either."
"I look like a tree stump."
I start to cry.
A few moments pass and I take a gander around my room. I notice all of the pictures I have hanging on my walls, and as if this moment were a really cheesy movie, the answer to my problem was right in front of my face the whole time. I stare straight ahead at the picture hanging crooked (from failed sticky-tack attempts) on my wall. I'll let you all take a glance at what I saw in that moment, which is the photo at the top of this page.
That's right. The polka-dot freakin' pants. This picture was taken one evening this past summer at camp, by the ever talented and ever inspirational friend of mine Romy Conrad. Romy is the queen of many things, one of which is positive quotes. Over the summer I was feeling down, and I was lucky enough to have Romy by my side. She shared with me the quote, "At the end of the day, you control your own happiness." I had a breakthrough. I have been letting others dictate my happiness for far too long. Continually, I have been letting the smallest comments from people tear me down. Continually, I have let people spoil my happiness. Continually, I have put the idea of a positive body image on hold. Well, you know what I say to that system? NO. MORE.
I take a second look in the mirror. I no longer see my foes, Ugly, Fat, and Dumb. Instead, I see Strong, Beautiful, and Proud standing in my reflection. My body is beautiful and I won't allow others to dictate my happiness.
Hopefully, one day those two girls who dissed my rockin' pants will come to realize all of these lessons as well.
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