When I was young(er), I was skinny(er). My rib cage showed through my skin, I felt my shoulders bending forward in their natural state. I was deviated, different from all the other normal boys who had thicker bone structure and knew how to bite their nails, something I tried so hard to learn but never could.
I once made fun of a friend (basically my only one at the time) who was kind of chubby. I saw him without his shirt on and noticed that his belly button, unlike mine, didn’t stick out. Quite the opposite, it created a little hole in his otherwise protruding belly, as if there was an elastic on his inside fighting against the body’s will to fatten. And in that hole, there was some sort of dark, tangly stuff that caught my eye. When he told me it was lint, I thought it was quite odd and wrong for a belly button to accumulate such things. And even though he assured me it was the norm, and that everyone who wasn’t as skinny as me possessed belly button lint, I didn’t believe him, and at least in that department, I felt I was more normal.
But ultimately I knew I wasn’t actually normal at all, being so skinny. I somehow believed that if I hadn’t been so scrawny, and possibly didn’t wear glasses, my life would be very different. I would be cool, that special girl would like me, the other boys would include me in their clique, and I would magically feel like I fit into a world which wasn’t so alienating and full of heart ache as the one I was accustomed to… if only I wasn’t so skeletal and four-eyed.
Somehow, though, I survived. I started growing facial hair and putting on a little weight. I then got contact lenses, and girlfriends, too. Life still didn’t feel quite as welcoming as I once hoped, but somehow it wasn’t as intolerable as before. And nowadays, I even find myself chatting to a random guy who might have a tattoo or large jaw bone, or play an electric guitar, and actually feel connected to him, as if it was okay to be me as I am, tattooless, with a triangular face, and not a hip musician.
Now, before I go to bed at night, I don’t have that dooming sensation of not belonging. I just wonder whether I’ll sleep comfortably. I wonder if there’s a new pillow configuration I can adopt to avoid waking up with a sore neck. I wonder how I can save more money or how I can find more free time. And when I take my shirt off, the first thing my hand does is anxiously reach down to my belly button to remove any trace of lint that may be residing there. And I am silently unsettled when I find some, as if it wasn’t normal.