Art by Sian Williams
CW: Sexual harassment

When I was 2, I could barely fathom that I had a body. I could climb and run and eat and be loved fully and easily, without pretence. I could be nestled within loving arms and put to sleep with a kiss. 


When I was 4, my grandmother told me, “Be careful when you play, people can see up your skirt.” I didn’t understand why it mattered, but I could hear it in the tone of her voice that she was angry. The next time I climbed up to the monkey bars, I went a bit slower and kept my legs closed. 


When I was 8, I loved to dance. I loved the way music moved through me. I felt like a conduit of something magical. I felt alive with it. I could feel it rush up through my feet and out the top of my head, and however I moved in response just made sense. 


When I was 11, red marks started appearing on my hips, my clothes were too tight, and I thought they were marking me permanently. I was horrified that I was gaining weight. My friends talked about how much they weighed, they were all lighter than me, I never said anything about my own. When I finally got my period, I tried to hide it from my mother.


When I was 14, I kissed a boy for the first time. I discovered that it was easy to be loved if I looked the right way. If I walked with the right swing of my hips, if I arched my back properly. If I laughed at all the right times and blushed when I was complimented. If I let it happen, I would experience love again. 


When I was 17, a man catcalled me while I was walking my dog. I ran home, and as I did, I smiled. It was a terrifying compliment to me. I felt like something dirty had happened. I felt shame. Shame that I had taken it so lightly, and shame that it had to happen for me to think I was beautiful.


When I was 19, I grew tired, sick, and bone-weary. My muscles wilted inside me. I could barely stand up in the shower. Barely walk more than 100 metres. I felt myself fall apart from the inside and out and I didn’t think I would ever recover, I felt warped beyond perception. 


Now I am 21, my bones ache where they never did before. I am out of breath when I climb a set of stairs. I hate catching a glimpse of myself in a reflection or mirror. But some days I am glad that I can hug my friends, glad that I can walk the long way home. Glad that my body is now my own. 


Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 1 ‘Evolution’

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.