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A few days before morp I was walking to rehearsal at the theatre were I was cast as Tillie, (the dorky, sullen teenager) in the play The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man in the Moon Marigolds. The coolest guy in school, Christopher Merritt started walking towards me.
Let me explain a little about Christopher Merritt. Merritt, as he was called by everybody, was THE man on campus—a visual arts major and a senior. My memory tells me he had a giant tattoo of an eagle on his chest, but that seems unrealistic for a 17-year-old to have however so it may not be a true detail. But the fact that I remember his having one is testimony to how powerful the legend of Merritt was. An, though the tattoo may have been a fabrication, he definitely, for sure, owned a motorcycle. He ruled the school with the easy leadership of someone who doesn't give a fuck, or at least as a guy who just wants to smoke pot and paint. All I wanted was to get close to him and have the accompanying easy blessed life. So in that moment when I was waddling down to the Harvey theatre auditorium, and HE was moving toward me—ME, of all people—I thought I was going to throw up from excitement.
Holy fuck! He knows my name!
“Listen, can I tell you something personal? When you're doing your calisthenics or whatever, you should try to close your curtains better, cause we can all see you.”
He tried to stifle a chuckle and looked at me for a response.
I did not give him one.
Instead, I turned around and went back to my room and pulled out my suitcase from under my bed. I was going home. I started to pack and then it hit me that maybe others had seen me naked too, not just Merritt. Maybe the whole school had.
I started to cry and couldn't stop. I put on my biggest, most concealing school sweatshirt and ran to the infirmary. There I pretended I was sick, checked in and spent the next 3 days hiding out. I couldn't face the possibility that everyone had witnessed me naked, especially at a time when I hated my body so much.
Eventually the nurses made me leave. Luckily, there were only a few more weeks left of school, and I spent it ignoring everyone, failing ecology and living in the same sweatpants, which were now the only thing that fit me. I made up my mind that I would completely disassociate with anything that happened below my neck.
Then I went home for the summer, and thankfully my parents were shocked at what had become of me. My mom went on a self-esteem mission, and slowly the weight came off, and though I never thought I was attractive in high school, I started to live better in my body. Also Merritt graduated and I never had to see him again.
That is, until he came to my graduation 3 years later.
He showed up with a bunch of other alums completely wasted. It was freezing on graduation day. I was standing, shivering between my parents, when Merritt stumbled up to me. He was slurring.
“Lacy. Everyone's telling me about how upset your were when I saw you naked as a freshman. I just want to tell you that really grown into your body now. You have a beautiful bod now, man.”
He waited for me to respond and just like the last time, I only looked at him.
“Well that's all I wanted to tell you,” he said and sauntered off.
My dad turned to me, “What was all that about?”
This was the last thing I wanted to explain to my dad.
“That was Christopher Merritt, and when I was a freshman he accidentally saw me naked.”
“Dear God, you mean he saw you in your shower costume?”
I had no idea what a shower costume was, but it seemed more chaste than the truth. And it was a lie that I actually wanted to believe too, so I nodded yes to my dad.
“Well, I guess it doesn't matter too much, because he's gay right?”
Again it seemed easier for both my Dad, and also for my ego, to simply agree.
A few weeks ago, someone put up a bunch of pictures of me from high school on Facebook. As soon as I saw they were posted I braced myself for some major de-tagging and some major self-loathing. But, when I saw the pictures I was shocked. I was shocked to discover not only was I not ugly, but I was actually a little hottie. I couldn't believe that I hated myself so much when I looked that sexy. I had long black hair, pouty red lips, angst-filled teenage eyes, and baby fat cheeks—I was a living fantasy for immature, video game playing, unemployed 20 something men everywhere—and I didn't even know it.
I felt sad looking at the pictures. I had wasted so much time and energy not liking myself, when I could have been having a lot of amazing sex with my hot teenage body. I wish I could say that I've outgrown that type of self-hate, but I haven't, its simply a matter that my body image has become less of a priority. I'm less vain now, but not any more happy with the way I look.
However, those high school pictures have thrown everything through a loop for me. Is it ok to like they way I look? Would I be disobeying some righteous lady code if I actually started relishing my body? Is believing I'm attractive against everything we know as women? Cause here's the deal—I'm tired of feeling bad about myself. It's exhausting, and I don't want to waste the body I have now, not while my skin is still tight on the bone. I regret that I can't bring back teenage Lacy, but I can bring on the strip poker, the skinny dipping, and the nude modeling classes. Or at least, I can bask in the simple act of laying around naked without any covers on letting you look at me.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface