Body Paint

Written By - Tessa Cash

“I’m so proud of my body in that picture.”

“Your body looks horrible”


I could feel the blood draining from my face as though each one of my 43 facial muscles were wilting layer by layer. The entirety of my body began to simultaneously shrivel and shiver as though they were meeting and matching the foetal position that my mind had taken shelter in.

I’d waited my whole life to feel okay about my body, and here was the man who supposedly cared for me, telling me it was awful. 

In one foul swoop I was back on the bottom oval that hot summer afternoon in 1999 being thrown insults for my cumbersome, lazy, good for nothing body. I was back in the classroom having my project blurb being read repeatedly to me in mock and torment of my intellect. I was bending over to tie my shoelace at eleven years old on a wooden bench and being smacked on the bum by a boy walking past. 

I was completely, totally, entirely, off the charts mystically mortified. 

It was a similar type of mortification that came whilst I’d been sitting cross legged on my woven linoleum vinyl floor listening to the man I’d been ‘dating’ for nine months admit down the phone that he’d not meant it when he said he loved me, even though he’d said it nine thousand five hundred and twenty four times aka any opportunity he’d had to say it.

The same, now familiar mortification crept up my thighs, flapped about in my stomach and slowly invaded my brain like the grey pixelated strobe like screen a television sometimes default malfunctions to when said first said man would not say ti amo but only ti voglio bene. The equivalent of what you say to your uncle or your friend in Italian. Why? Because he didn’t love me.

I began to reflect on the way I felt in his presence. It all slowly but surely started to make sense. I looked after him, but he didn’t look after me. But why? That’s dumb. Aren’t you supposed to care for someone in a relationship? Sure, he’d brought coffee as a surprise for me once or twice. He’d cooked for me once. Paid for dinner about the same amount of times. But all that stopped pretty quickly after we started dating. 

Toward the end he’d used everything I’d done as ammunition for one last almighty mindfuck: “you do all these things to make me love you.”

Oh whoa. Oh whoaaaaaa.  Was anyone else’s ears ringing from the shell shock? My eyes were about to explode outside of my skull. Seriously, y’all need to call the police right now because say what right now? Nah brosef, I do that shit because I want to fill you up so damn good with love that you feel like you can flyyyy motherfucker. 

That serotonin dopamine love shit is the best drug on the god damn earth and if we weren’t afraid shared it around a little more this place wouldn’t be so full of pain. So yea bro, I wanna be loved but I sure as hell don’t give to receive. Maybe that one is on you. 
I’m ashamed to say I stayed after that but I’m happy to report that even assholes have a purpose this world. Still to this day I don’t know or understand why you’d want to make someone else feel shit about themselves. My only answer is a deep, dark all encompassing abyss of pain that has been suppressed and pushed down, to avoid being dealt with and worked through.

I’m so tired of apologising for my body, even though it may seem like I have it easy in all my white privilege. I’m so tired of wondering nimbly if I’m okay, of being paralysed by caring about what other people think.

Love yourselves y’all. In whatever current state or condition you’re in. And if you seek love make sure you find someone who loves you in all your shades and colours too.