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I have always hated my wrists.

Wrists, by my standards, are one of the most delicate points in your body. For some strange, inexplicable reason, I have always considered the joint connecting my hand and my arm as the most easily accessible point for an attacker.

Wrist injuries are brutal – a mere wrist sprain can leave the joint ineffective for 48 hours and in some, extreme rare cases, for up to two months. An injury to your wrist can leave your whole arm incapacitated. Resting and icing the wrist is necessary for rehabilitation of the torn, sprained or otherwise damaged ligaments and tendons, and can leave you out of writing, reading, cooking, driving, playing sports, or anything else that would require the bending of one of the most important joints in our bodies.

My wrists, I’ve found, are far more delicate than those of the average person. I look at burly men handling long metallic pipes in my neighborhood as they fix the plumbing problem the family next door has had for ages, and I see their wrists, thick and strong, holding up power tools and slabs of concrete like they weigh nothing. I look at the barista at Starbucks as she takes my order, confidently writing my name across the cup in a dulled black sharpie, wrists firm as she accepts the payment of my debit card on her register.

I see my dad’s wrists, the right one slightly darker than its left counterpart, as he has a terrible habit of wearing his watch day in and day out. I watch his wrists as we’re eating burgers; they steadily hold the sandwich up as he pauses in his storytelling to chew.

I see my sister’s wrists as she draws. Her arms are bigger than mine, her wrists more solid, though thoroughly agitated by her incessant shading.

My own wrists are: small. Delicate. Flimsy, and if I lay on them the wrong way, they ache for a whole two days after. My hands are huge (a trait inherited from my dad), fingers long and spidery (a trait inherited from my mom). My arm is thin, twiggy like the rest of my body – so my wrist, the important connection between my two vastly different body parts, is frail. Weak. Pathetic, I’d go as far to say.

I have always hated my wrists.

I think, though, that my hatred stemmed from the peculiarity of them and danger to them. When I was younger, not by much, maybe six or seven years ago, I thought that no worse pain could come to you than a horrible wrist injury – all I could think of was cracking bones.

Maybe that’s why I covered and covered my wrists – bracelets, watches, hair ties, sweater sleeves, paper wristbands I always fastened a bit larger so my arm wouldn’t look too thin; imagine my frustration as my arms grew to a disproportionate length – what sweater was going to fit my ridiculous arms and not dwarf me?

And as I grew and grew and grew and grew inexplicably tired and sad, I noticed that the worst of my days would find me staring at my wrists and staring at the delicate green and purple colored veins underneath my skin and I would think how easy it could be, to end this all?

How morbid for a child! Staring at her wrists – and I was horrified and scared and the thought, the thought of putting anything close to them that could quite literally cut off my way of living a long and glorious life.

(The cuts still happened though – at the top of my thighs in nice neat little rows of six. Took me three years to wear a swimsuit without shorts on top.)

So I protected my wrists. I hated them, I have always hated them, but they are a part of me, and I protected them.

I think I have spent more time in my life nitpicking at things I dislike than fully appreciating the way I look.

At a young age, I depised my legs – chicken legs, my sister not so tenderly teased – and always hid them behind baggy jeans and khaki pants that even to this day, do not fit me. In elementary school, I would wear one, two, three pairs of my colorful leggings (that would never see the light of day anyways) underneath my pants and run around all day, sweating profusely in the hot Miami sun.

My fingers are too long – crooked and “manly”, and with the airing of Glee, people took to teasing me about my “man-hands”, a phrase that was much funnier to hear when Quinn Fabray teased Rachel Berry, and when you’re not on the receiving end of it.

I wore one piece bathing suits when my best friend in second grade saw my belly button and pointed and said, “gross!” It’s not gross, I thought, just different – and back then I had the silliest aspirations to be a model or an actress by age 16. But every actress and model had an innie and mine wasn’t even quite an outtie, and I began to think that maybe it was gross and maybe a science oriented career would be a better path for me.

When puberty hit all the other girls in my class, I was left flat-chested and small. I would wear four bras to school and stuff each cup with one sock to make me feel adequate – like I was a “real woman”.

And I tire of pointing out my long string of insecurities in anecdote after wretched anecdote, but they’re seemingly endless; my ears stick too far out of my head, there’s a formidable gap between my two front teeth, my nose is too long, my shoulders are too broad, my hip bones jut out unattractively, the hair on my arms, legs, back, face is too thick and dark, my skin is blotchy and discolored and acne ridden, my feet are too large, my toes are spindly and long, my ankle bone sticks too far out, and my wrists. 

My wrists are too small.

I’ve retired some of the hatred I have for myself; it’s too heavy to hate every part of your body. I’ve come to love my chicken legs, and my odd belly button. My breasts filled out in the last couple or years. I ignore the hair on my arms and back, and shave the parts I want to shave. I cover my ears with my hair, and my feet and ankles and hipbones don’t bother me as much as they used to.

I think self-loathing has come to me in phases in my life, which are obviously ever-changing as I grow and develop myself as as a person. One of the most intimate, poignant experiences I’ve had in my life happened under a boy I was with. He took a look at me, brilliantly exposed to him in ways I’d never experienced or imagined, and he smiled, radiant and unscrutinizing.

He said, “you’re beautiful” I think, or a variation of the sort (boys say things from “you’re ethereal” to “your body’s great”, so it could have been either of the two), and I felt a surge of… something. Something swept through me, like liquid warmth, that I felt in my toes and the tips of my ears. All of a sudden I felt wanted – I felt needed, I felt visceral, important, I felt like for once, everything, the roar of “no, no, no, no, no!”, the nipping voices in the back of my mind stopped. I felt good, I felt great, being the subject of someone’s full attention.

And since then, I have longed for that feeling again – the feeling of being wanted. Not sexually, and not with that boy, but by someone, anyone, by my friends or parents, by my crushes, my first love. By the girls and boys that make me feel something tap dance on my heartstrings when I look at them, or say their names, or think of them with a smile on my face.

My mother always taught me to be independent. She taught me in carefully chosen words, “está bien pedir ayuda; pero no debes depender de otras personas. Hay algunas cosas que debes confiar en usted misma, con tu juicio.”

Hah. Con mi juicio, mamá.

Mi juicio is telling me that I can’t feel complete without someone else. It’s telling me that unless I feel needed, unless there’s a force there telling me that I’m vital, then I’m nothing.

I have moments where I look at my life spread out magnanimously ahead of me. I look back and feel specks of love like freckles and moles on my skin, and I feel disappointment too, like those same freckles, spreading dangerously on my body.

I want to be vital. I want to be necessary, to be important to the world, to be important to someone. I want to be someone’s world – selfishly.

I read somewhere when I was little that you cannot begin to love someone else until you love yourself, nor can you expect someone to love you either. I don’t know if that’s true – like I said, I’ve spent more time hating who I was than appreciating who I am – but if it is, I have a long way to go before I can be someone’s world; before I can let someone be mine.

I’m typing this sentence and I’m watching my wrists. The bone juts out half a centimeter too much. There’s a long, bulging vein that runs from my ring finger to my mid forearm. I momentarily think: how easy it could be, to end –

I thought I was past this sort of thing, but sometimes things will creep up on you quick and just for a moment. I find myself stunned, shake my head, move past it, because there are other things to be happy about, other things to live for; these things that I tell myself to keep trudging on.

My hands are still big, and my wrists are still small, but they feel stronger now. Surer. Not as thick as the construction worker’s or as firm as the Starbucks barista’s. Not as steady as my Papi’s or as solid as my sister’s. Maybe, I can one day be fond of them, as I am with my ears, and my toes, and the mole on my chin.

Maybe I don’t like my wrists, maybe I never will. Maybe I will never feel vital or necessary again. But I’m human – I’ve gotten a taste of the feeling that authors so often write about – and I’ll be damned if I let that go so easily.

One thought on “12. on vitality

  1. 1. i love you Sm
    2. ur masterful prose literally murders me every time
    3. u made a freckles metaphor that i actuallg love how’d you do it

    Like

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