Body Shame

It took nearly 6 months to get a bike after moving to New York City. Riding in The City is a mix of reckless exhilaration and freedom. How I regret not getting that bike sooner through those first summer months.

I would ride across the Brooklyn Bridge to work each morning. At first, it was hard going. I would stop three times before cresting that tall hill of wire and metal, stone, and tourists. Soon belabored breath became steady and I am up and over in one push. Little by little I became strong.

In 2015 Facebook shares an out of focus photo “memory” in which I’m holding a beer, camera flash lending shine to my thin-framed glasses. I will repost the memory with a reflection that starts with:

It’s weird seeing how skinny I was, I never remember really feeling that thin…

In December 2010, when the picture was taken, I look at myself in the mirror and see an unattractive body. A body that I am ashamed of.

With a few year’s distance I see something completely different. Strange how time both distorts and corrects.

What I think I see in my body I actually feel in my mind. I feel that I am ugly. I lack the confidence to imagine otherwise. I am unsure and ashamed of myself.

In 2016 I return to my old neighborhood and bump into Rupert, the super of my old building. He’ll slap me on the back and says “damn boy, you look healthy”, I am nearly 250 pounds at this point, the heaviest I’ve ever been. He’s from the Caribbean and I suspect that in his culture having some meat on your bones is a good sign. I hear an unspoken end to his sentence “last I saw you were too skinny”.

These two moments, seeing my old picture and being praised for being heavy cement my self diagnosis of body dysmorphia. Seeing a different version of ones self in the mirror than what really exists.

I was so caught up in feeling unattractive that I never noticed the people who were attracted to me. I didn’t believe it was possible. I thought I was lonely because I was ugly but looking back I see that I was projecting my distorted vision onto others.