You want to know something really really embarrassing, that I hate to admit to myself? Well, I'm going to come right on out and post it publicly. If I can't inch out of my comfort zone, I'll rip the bloody thing to shreds and douse it in ice water.
I'm absolutely petrified of this one little thing, almost above all others: I'm terrified that my stomach looks like I'm pregnant.
My fingers tingled with revulsion as I typed the word. Pregnant. P-r-e-g-n-a-n-t. With child. As though a parasitic organism is living and growing within my flesh. As though there were two haploid cells which fused and made a little zygote which grew into a full-blown foetus complete with legs and kidneys and hair. That is what scares me.
It's an obsessive fear - anytime I pass a mirror, I look at my abdomen in profile - tensing my muscles, sucking in, breathing out. I take side-on photographs of myself and scrutinize the angles and lines and curves. I've been known to lurk on boards dedicated to expectant mothers, checking to see if the precise shape of my abdomen was more in line with ten weeks or twelve, or maybe eight, depending on the frame of the woman with whom I compared myself.
The thing is, I know how vastly stupid this is. I know I'm not pregnant, I'm reasonably sure nobody thinks I am, I don't have any particular reason why it should upset me if someone did think I was carrying an infant than it does when people look at me in school uniform or with my hair long or wearing a tight shirt or walking into gender-segregated toilets or calls me by my given name. But for some reason the idea does upset me more. Hell, it even narrowly edges out the distaste I have for admitting in spoken discourse that I have run out of sanitary products and need to purchase products from the 'feminine care' aisle. And that's no small feat.
Years ago, I had kind of a similar, but opposing fear. I was obsessively self-conscious about the fly of my jeans. Invariably, because humans are not usually made of perfect straight lines and flat planes, the zipper on the front of a pair of jeans will buckle and curve with the bend in the hips of the wearer. Often, especially, apparently, on someone built like I was at twelve years of age, this will result in the fabric forming a folded protrusion somewhere in the general area of the groin. I'm not sure I even know how long I spent fretting over this one, but it was a comparable fear: I was certain that somebody was going to stroll up, take a look at my crotch, and think I looked like I had a penis.
Yeah. How perfectly logical. That is totally what goes through anybody's mind when they're staring (you know, as any respectable person does) at a twelve-year-old girl's pants.
(Of course, don't start thinking the stomach loathing and crotch paranoia were mutually exclusive - I still wanted to remove my organs so I could have a flatter stomach when I was a kid. I mean, I asked my dad how old I'd have to be to get a hysterectomy. Yes, child-me knew how to spell 'hysterectomy,' had looked it up in the library, and become enamoured of the idea of uterus-free living.)
But I'm pretty much over that autocockophobia, to be egregiously neologistic. I don't know what triggered it, but for some reason, at some point, I decided I didn't need to search for the elusive 'jeans with a 2" zip' or take an iron to my groin in the morning or invest in a steel busk and never bend at the waist. It probably had something to do with realising, or deciding, or whatever, at the ripe old age of fourteen - hey wait, I want to be a guy. So maybe I only got over the penis-jeans-thing because it turned into wishful thinking. Or maybe it was the extended period of gypsy-skirt wearing that happened to fall around the same time, precluding the whole jeans thing. Or that I developed anorexia and the jeans pretty much looked the same on me as they did laid out in the shops anyway. Or that I'd come to dislike my appearance so much that it didn't matter whether one particular bit of me sucked any more. Or I'd become so obsessed with 'improving' what parts of me were salvageable that I'd just cut my losses and forgotten those failing. Whatever it was… autocockophobia gone.
But watermelon-baby-gut-fear? Lives on. And honestly, I don't really want to decide that I do want to be pregnant after all, so it's okay to look it. Or develop another eating disorder. Or continue my current habit of never ever ever wearing anything that could possibly reveal the outline of my figure. Or get into that same depth of self-loathing. So I don't know what to do. At the very heart of it, I don't want to accept the way my body is, because I 'know' it's sub-standard. I can't swallow my pride and accept that it's okay to not be perfect, that it really shouldn't matter if I have the best body in the world. Why do I envy supermodels and athletes and diet gurus? Why do I feel compelled to emulate and exceed them when doing so really doesn't help me achieve anything I really want to do?
It's frustrating, to know I'm being irrational, and to see the smooth symmetry of reason right in front of me but find myself too hot-headed and fickle to reach out and grasp it. It kind of makes me want to simultaneously curl up in a ball and hit my head repeatedly against a solid, flat surface.