I felt happy that day, and beautiful, truly beautiful. The right side of the bed followed me everywhere that morning; my teeth were extra sparkly and my eyes matched. I rejoiced in feeling not a single shred of anxiety, of guilt, of self-loathing. I was beautiful and intelligent and kind, the world smiled at me and I grinned back to make it laugh.
I told her how I felt strong and loved and worthy of that love. I told her that the music in my ears made me feel like I could fly and that all my worries seem so small in that moment of joy. I told her all of this and more, and she listened with glazed eyes, furtive glances away, and barely spoke to me for the rest of the day. A wall came up. My face fell, slightly. My spirit dimmed, almost imperceptibly, just barely enough for others to notice. But it dimmed.
The next day, I felt lovely. My eyes twinkled and danced, though my smile was close-lipped. I told jokes between silences and engaged with my surroundings – two strangers complimented my eyeliner and I laughed.
I told her how I felt comfortable in my body, and how I loved my boyfriend. I told her how elated I felt to have so many thriving, lush plants in my home, and vibrant artwork on my walls. She didn’t make eye contact and barely “mhmm”ed, told me she had to go. My smile, already struggling and crooked, disappeared. My eyelids went to half-mast, and I was quiet for the rest of the day.
The next day, I felt grey. The right side of the bed wasn’t in my home that day, I woke up with a crick in my neck, my feet got in each other’s way, my hair was unwashed, and my lips felt too heavy to smile. I blinked and an hour went by, blinked again and only 30 seconds passed.
I told her that I felt inadequate and sad, unattractive and listless. I told her that I felt as though my days were meaningless and I was unsure about my relationship with my family. I told her all of this and more, and her eyes brightened as mine dulled. Her back became straighter, she laughed all day, as she had found someone more miserable than she. That day, she didn’t stop talking to me for more than a few minutes at a time; I’d never seen her more lovely and lively.
I didn’t see her again for two weeks. By then, though, I knew how to speak to her. Though I’d woken up cheerful that day, when she asked how I was I only mentioned my aching back. Though I felt beautiful and strong, I told her that I felt insecure and unworthy of love. I dulled my internal happiness for her while inside I was bursting with gratitude. She sparkled and her eyes danced as she listened to my woes, while inside I did the same, for my triumphs. She wasn’t allowed to know, though, this friend of mine. I’d learned that to love myself truly without her dimming my light, I had to pretend to be unhappy.
Life’s a play, someone once told me. Look at us performing. Don’t we play it well?