The Day Before
I notice sensations against my skin. The dryness of my elbows scratching on the desk, or pulling on sweater sleeves as I roll them up, and the uncomfortable pressure against my ribcage from the underwire of my bra.
When I get changed out of my clothes and into something comfortable, I stare at my chest, touch my breasts briefly, and find myself frowning. I slip into a large t-shirt and sweatpants and put in earplugs for sleep. I’m not going to bed yet. Just trying to drown out the noise around me. Something is askew in my universe.
The Morning Of
My hair is too long and my hips are too wide, and I stare at myself in the foggy mirror after showering. My body is a freshly washed series of misplaced lumps. When I wrap the towel around myself, I close my eyes and brace myself for the chill of nakedness.
As is my habit, I have set out my clothes the night before. I do not think well in the first few hours of waking (not necessarily the morning; sometimes I sleep past noon. #noshame). Clothes are too many decisions, even the order of putting them on: underpants, bra, jeans, t-shirt, socks, sweater. I put the bra back on its hook in the closet and pull out the chest binder from a drawer. Before I make the effort to slip it over my head, I remember how terrible it is to put on when my skin is even the least bit damp. I pat myself down again. Through the towel, I touch individual parts of a body I hate today—the one that doesn’t feel right and that I can’t temporarily change.
The binder is tight around my ribcage. I inhale deeply, to remind my lungs how much they can expand while being willingly bound. It isn’t nearly as much as I normally can. When I first bought and wore the undershirt-like formwear, it would barely budge past my arms while I shimmied into it. It moved like a starch-laden tank top and rubbed my skin terribly.
I change the shirt sitting on my dresser. The relaxed-fit t-shirt with the beautiful design can’t be worn today: the neckline shows part of the binder and it is too fitted for my waist to feel comfortable. I do not want to be touched. My body is a virus. I open the drawer, place the Girl Shirt back in its place, and pick a Boy Shirt from the other side. It is loose. Crew-neck cut. Longer sleeves. Reminiscent of my preference when I would harm myself and hide the wounds on my biceps.
When I’m dressed and brushing my teeth, I see myself in the mirror and feel better. I mess up my hair, still unsure how to make my face look the way it should. It seems as if it will always be a She Face, regardless of how the rest of my self appears.
I’ve thought of wearing makeup, not for enhancing my lashline or enunciating the shape of my lips, but for contouring my cheekbones, my jawline, and my eyebrows to seem darker; deeper; dastardly. I do not have the money. My teeth are clean. I spit and rinse and rinse and rinse and floss.
Either everyone knows my secret or they think I’m angry. My step is involuntarily more aggressive, I think, or perhaps the way I carry my shoulders and arms says something. Do I slouch more? Do I seem more forceful? Do I seem like an angry woman instead of what I am today: a boy?
I can’t walk as fast as normal, or take the stairs as quickly, because of the tightness around my breasts and ribs. The bottom of my binder rolls up toward the bottom of my ribcage, which doesn’t bother me as much as the way my skin and fat tissue are pinched under my arms. (An unfortunate downside of being overweight and trying to combat body dysphoria.)
In classes, I take notes and keep my head down. I don’t chat with acquaintances. I’m on a mission: survive the day. Running errands, I ignore the casual “hon” and “miss” the older cashiers use. Am I a flat-chested girl to them? How do they know what to call me? My confusion is hidden after a brief moment. I don’t know if they notice—they probably don’t. I walk in a fog and jolt when I can’t remember if I put away my wallet and cards and cash and receipts. Disorientation, over and over again, and I settle into the movements like a mix of floating and sinking.
I don’t ask friends for hugs. I don’t want them to squeeze me. I don’t want to be touched.
The Night Of
When I’ve returned home and after I remove the binder, I return to the baggy clothes from the day before (sweater and sweatpants). The first time I removed the binder was in front of my boyfriend. He was the first to know about my wearing it the first time it was on. He said I looked good. He helped take it off, since I got stuck. It was like I had shimmied myself into a plastic Chinese finger trap.
But removing it now is an easy slip. I’m always sad to take it off, but the discomfort on my skin hinders me from wearing it too long.
Any intense efforts to feel better about the femininity of my body would make things worse.
After I place jeans and a t-shirt on the dresser, I snuggle into bed. The binder sits in the drawer and the bra hangs in the closet. I will decide tomorrow when I feel and see myself moving.