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I remember the delight I felt, standing before the mirror in a preadolescent two-piece, as I noticed that the once flat, square plane of my torso was becomming nipped at the waist, hourglassy, curvaceous.

I remember sitting in the dingy white bathtub of the old house with the bubbles all deflated and the water cresting over my navel, and realizing in a flash that I now consumed far more volume than I used to. It seemed like I could blink back to my old form, see the translucent shadow-self, much smaller, and younger, with my feet barely touching the tile.

I can remember the moment my belly developed a crease, red and irritated by my poor posture, cutting a stark line between ribcage and hip.

I remember standing in the loft of my first boyfriend’s garage, blue and orange panties tight to the point of leaving marks, no bra on, cold air clouding breath, spinning slowly in front of him while he sat on the powder blue couch.

I remember standing sideways in bathrooms, dressing rooms, bedrooms, assessing the convexity, testing the difference between bra vs. no bra, standing at angles, leaning until a rounded little shadow formed in the dead center of my chest.

I remember when the lines that rib my hips and boobs weren’t pale silver that can only be spied in morning sunlight in the bathroom when I take the time to split the old cracks apart. They used to be red-purple, and painful looking, jagged bolts shooting across the expanding flesh.

I remember when my hips started catching on things.

I remember not wearing a bra for the entireity of tenth grade because I’d been convinced that it made my boobs look bigger. That and I wanted it to be easy for the boyfriend to slip his hand under my shirt and cup them.

I remember my friends flashing traffic, bare backs with chests facing roads and glinting headlights at 9 or 10pm, some honking.

I can vaguely recall how my stomach would stick out and become hard when I’d had too much water to drink and desperately needed to pee, and how satisfying it was to let it all rush out, then, and watch my belly lower.

I remember a dark, thick smear in a pair of white underwear with pink flowers on them. I remember my mom trying to have the talk with me, to broach the blood in dozens of ways, and how I always ran from the room.

I can remember the pin-striped pencil skirt I wore to debate tournaments, and how it accentuated that little divot between ribs and hips, and how my ass became round, and the red shirt I wore with it, and that even my mom was impressed by how I looked from behind in it.

I do not remember when the changes became dreadful. I can’t place the origins of shame. I can remember envying thin hips and jutting bones, but wishing and waiting for adequate curves just as badly.

A friend asked me when and why I first started wearing makeup. It was in my teens, around the time my hips and chest broke out in stretchmarks and I stopped wearing a bra.

“I thought it made me look older,” I explained, and he wrinkled his nose.

“No girl wants to look older.” He was dismissive. “You must have wanted sexual attention, just admit it.”

He knew me back then, when I identified as asexual. Back then plenty of people challenged it, but not him. But I guess his respect didn’t last once I started fucking people.

“It wasn’t about sex at all,” I told him. “I wasn’t interested in anybody in that fucking place.”

High school wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t erotic.

“Why else would you start wearing makeup,” he started again, “other than to look like a sexually mature woman?”

He really does talk like this. He gets it from me.

“I didn’t want to, like, sexually entice anybody,” I said. “I just wanted to seem like an adult.”

This distinction has always been hard for him. He’s a Darwinian, evolutionary psychologist through and through. Everything is sex and power to him.

But every child has some moment in the bathroom before the mirror, where they cover their body in suds, and take a spare comb or a plastic card or a cap, and drag the flat surface, razor-like, over whatever patch of body their assigned gender is expected to shave. We all do this. Even as our parents laugh and say that actual shaving is fun exactly once, and ever after remains tiresome.

We don’t do that because we are budding sexual beings.

We don’t care about being alluring yet, or I didn’t.

We just want that level of control over our bodies. We want to be hairy and then make ourselves smooth. We want to have a shape, a texture; to have grown.

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