I am fat, with massive breasts that swing when untended and get raw where the bra meets the skin. Bad hearing in my right ear, horrifically nearsighted. Bone spurs in my ankles and the beginnings of bunions, rough and cracked heels. I get deep, painful zits under my arms and anywhere else my body touches my body. Stretch marks, birthmarks, moles, cellulite. Anemia. Keratosis pilaris on my upper arms, a perpetually itchy back. Hair that is half-fine, half-curly, gives up its curl easily except when it’s humid; beneath all of it, psoriasis on my scalp. Perpetually bad hangnails, nails I still chew on occasion, sandpaper elbow. A startlingly rare Simian crease on not one but both my palms. Dark, coarse hair beneath my chin. It doesn’t get any better when you go inside: My uterus is a mess—endometriosis, scar tissue, periods like crime scenes, cramps so bad I fold in half. A joint disorder that makes my cartilage bend like Gumby. My jaw clicks when I stretch it too wide. My body failed to make multiple permanent teeth; I still retain a single baby tooth at the top and have an implant at the bottom where the baby tooth fell out and nothing took its place. I have large, glossy mandibular tori below my tongue that get in the way of dental X-ray braces and have been cut on tortilla chips, more than once. I still have an overbite despite years of expensive dental procedures. Back pain and neck pain and foot pain. Bad posture. Clinical, powerful anxiety, for which I take medication that makes my entire digestive system — stomach, bowels, and all — go haywire without the judicious application of supplementary medications. A mix of genetic landmines, nature, self-imposed problems, plain old bad luck. As a result, I think of my body as an animal, one that perpetually needs more than I can give her.
Even as a teen, I didn’t fit into the Macy’s prom dresses; my mom had to take me to a specialty shop that sold formal dresses for “mature” women. I once hiked to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s grave, deep in the woods near the border of Massachusetts and New York, and while solemnly contemplating…