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ithaca

august 24, 2008 at 7:50pm

they have all these orientation events. they want us to mingle with each other. all these barbecues and ice cream socials. and learning how to use the computer network. and you have to take this swimming test.

the swimming test freaks me out. i don’t want to put on a bathing suit and show myself in public up here. most of these girls are built like my roommate. they aren’t “fat,” they’re “athletic.” i don’t think they want to wear swimsuits, either. i think they are almost as engorged with fear as me. and all of us are wondering, “swim test? like wtf? this isn’t summer camp. really. wtf?” and we find out that the swimtest is a requirement because people drown swimming in the gorges and the lakes more frequently than the university would care to admit. but, then, one of the older transfer student chimes in, “perhaps, they should just have a drinking test,” because most of the “accidents” seem to happen when someone is drunk and “invariably they turn out to be people who, simply, cannot hold their liquor.” 

to me, the entire discussion is both morbid and offensive. but, i nod anyway, arms folded tightly, defensively, across my superflat chest. i swear i can feel several of my roommate’s new-found friends staring at me. their eyes are laser pointers surveying every inch of my body. i haven’t set foot in the heavily chlorinated pool, but i’m shivering from each joust of the laser pointer, as it hovers around each area of voyeuristic interest. i feel its light touching, jabbing, searing through my arms, trying to determine whether i am really a 32-aaa. 

their eyes wonder out loud. 

“could she be flatter than that?” 

“do they make a smaller size than that?” 

i hold my chest tighter. and i feel the pointer touch beneath my jawline, lingering on the indent below my chin. it traces to my neck, so sinuous, so veiny, so long. it caresses my clavicles, the upper part of my sternum, and the ribs below my neck. 

in ballet class, these features would provoke jealously, never derision. here, i am not sure. i squirm, as the pointer passes over my arms again, desperate to judge my nearly non-existent breasts. “oh, please. i beg of you. i need this inspection to stop. i am not a piece of meat. i am not fuel for your gossip,” i scream inside. but, the laser pointer continues, passing quickly over the indented ripples of my stomach, and the tautness of the speedo® as it pulls upon my pubic bone. 

the pointer leers over the nakedness of my hipbones, which jut out like ice caps from beneath the edges of my swimsuit. here, i feel the laser’s warmth. here, i feel an envious caress. i know they want this. i know they want this badly. no matter how much stock they put in their powerful thighs and womanly, motherly breasts, these hipbones are the unattainable, the forbidden fruit. these hipbones are the payoff for years of work and control and willingness to place body image before health. 

feeling the laser here, i am empowered and i twist my left leg outward, ever so slightly, to demonstrate the turnout earned through 15 years of classical ballet and i raise myself to demi-rélévé, which reveals the powerful indents on my thighs and calves and ass for just enough time to put them on notice, to make them just a little bit squeamish. they know now that i might just be a stronger force to be reckoned with than my 32-aaa’s might indicate in our mammocentrically obsessed society. in that moment, the split second elevation from 5’7 ½” to almost six-feet, made my 105 pounds look powerful, undaunted, and unwilling to be stepped on. 

pulling my hair back to tuck it into a black usa swim cap, i say to my roommate, “exactly why are we here? shouldn’t we have alcohol ingestion testing, instead?” 

the roommate giggles. “i don’t know, but i wouldn’t mind that particular round of tests!” everyone giggles. i put on my goggles and prepare to dive.

black out.

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