Years @ A Time by Annie Nishida
@ 9 years old:
I look in the mirror and think I’m hot shit even though my mom still chooses what I wear each day (some combination of a white top and navy blue bottom for school uniform). I take, like, five minutes to get ready in the morning, and then I race my dad as we walk to school, trying to be the first one to touch the flagpole.
I’m the first one in my class to have a “boyfriend.” I’m not aware, however, that in a couple months this person who says he “likes me” will break up with me by telling me that he likes my next-door neighbor instead. He’s not aware that she’s going to dump him months after that via a note written with one of those “invisible” markers that you have to scribble over to read.
I’m a bit rounder than some of my peers, but I don’t actually see my physical appearance in my reflection because all that matters is that you’re funny and nice and can kick ass in a tetherball court, with or without a cotton glove on one hand to improve efficiency.
@ 13 years old:
I look in the mirror and still think I’m hot shit because I wake up every morning at 6am to lather Garnier Fructis volumizing mousse in my hair and blow dry it upside down before tying a ribbon in it to complete my look. I walk up and down the halls with my best friend singing “High School Musical” songs and it’s cool because we don’t care that we aren’t cool, you know?
When I look at my reflection, I see a girl with big hair and big dreams of moving to New York or marrying Sam from Supernatural, and who once got threatened by a girl bully for talking to a “scene” guy in a band on MySpace, and it was a whole debacle.
However, when some people look at me, they see someone who’s “fat.” I know this because one boy in particular made me quite aware almost every day in homeroom. I try to ignore this poor boy and just humor him by laughing along and pretending I’m in on the joke. It sucks, but whatever.
@ 17 years old:
I look in the mirror and think I’m actual, literal shit. I’m a senior in high school, helping run our newspaper while trying to keep up with AP Lit reading and attempting to convince colleges that I’m still competent even though I failed calculus, and all while I’m trying to hide the fact that, yes, I physically look a little better than I did at ages 9 and 13, but that I feel so much worse.
I still wake up at 6 to do my hair and makeup and choose a flattering outfit, to try to hide the fact that I’m not as thin as my tiny, Asian peers. My biggest fear is food, and how good it tastes, and how much I want to eat and how hungry I get after trying to starve myself for the day to lose weight, and the fact that I feel so bad after indulging that I feel sick and gross and ugly and just want to text a mobile tweet to 40404 through my Blackberry Pearl to announce to the world how much I hate my body.
When I look at my reflection, I see a lot of room for improvement, and that’s it. There’s always something that needs to be done—less fat here (everywhere, really), slightly bigger boobs, a slimmer face. No positives. Nothing to humblebrag in a Facebook status about with a backwards smiley face. “Annie is…not feeling like hot shit!(:”
@ 21 years old:
I look in the mirror and think some things are kind of shitty (like the fact that I don’t have the energy to hold down an unpaid internship in Santa Monica for class credit), but that I’m a powerful lady who can get things done. I wake up at 5:45 in the morning every day and go work in Starbucks on Hoover and Jefferson, so I can start building my filmmaking empire, aka writing vagina jokes.
I’ve learned to look past what I see in the mirror, but not completely. I work out twice a week, and I’m really into long skirts with weird patterns and oversized sweaters that you can only find in the deep trenches of the Goodwill near the Arclight in Hollywood. I feel in control; like I have a say in how I feel.
I’m not aware that I’ll go through a whole other year and a half-ish of body-hate before getting to stop feeling guilty for eating Cheez-its one night. I’m even less aware that, with heavy amounts of (sometimes forced) self-love, I’ll be able to power through this and get even closer to being that tetherball-playing, badass 9-year-old again.