But everyone who has called me beautiful has left and not come back

I grew up in a family of all girls

who prioritized being thin and pretty

and when a hair fell out of place, our dad would tuck it behind our ears

and when the belts around our waists loosened our mom would ask why and say

it’s not okay to be okay. It’s okay to be the best.

But in a family of all girls you can’t always be the best

so I found what I was good at,

which was counting my ribs and the knobs in my spine,

and I would stand naked in front of my mirror and trace the grooves

up and down until I could slide my fingers in between them.

I did the same with my hipbones, watching them widen as I grew,

keeping them prominent so they were visible

through my jeans and it wasn’t till I was eighteen

and someone asked me if I was okay

that I realized I might not be.

And every person who I let inside

would tell me that I was beautiful

so I never changed, except to try harder and be better

and be the best so I could please them,

and please them I did.

But I found myself alone,

counting, like I’ve done since I was eleven,

feeling the familiar bumps and the smooth scars that coat my skin,

so I tuck my hair behind my ears and tighten my belt around my waist

and tell myself every thing will be okay, even if I’m not.

Emma Hicks is a fourth-year creative writing and English literature student. Her preferred nickname is Germs and she hates long walks on the beach.