h2>Dating : The Shape of Love
To the person who taught me how to love
She still remembered the train of thoughts circling in her mind when her boyfriend told her she was beautiful for the first time. There were excitement and pride, but they soon were overshadowed by doubts and insecurities. ‘Has he seen your stretchmarks?’ — a sinister voice whispered — ‘And those scars and bruises. They sure don’t look pretty to me.’ She shook her head in a weak attempt to protest, but the voices only increased in intensity. Before long, she felt as though her body was placed under a microscope where even the tiniest imperfection would not escape harsh scrutiny. She could not help but lamenting: How can a well-intentioned remark take such a psychological toll on me?
It took her a lot of courage to sit her boyfriend down for a talk about how she was not as beautiful as he might have thought. She gave him a thoroughly composed list of her imperfections as proof and held her breath as his eyes ran over the paper. By the time he was done, she was also prepared for the worst: that he would take to his feet and run out the door, never to be seen again. He would then live happily ever after, having saved himself from being with an imperfect girl — one that did not have flawless skin and a scar-free body.
How she did not realize she was being ridiculous was beyond her. Being in love had made her so acutely self-conscious. She wanted to be her best self in front of him, and thus the things that were not right stood out even more. She guessed he noticed them now, which was . . . good? He could make more informed judgements in the future using all the ‘facts’ she had given him. But she also felt conflicted. She liked it when he called her beautiful. She got this tingling, fuzzy feeling in her heart. She would love to hear more about his affection for her, but now that he had been informed of her imperfections, what would be the chances?
How shallow do you think my feelings are for you?
His question pulled her out from the jumbled pile of thoughts she had buried herself under. She had no doubt that his feelings were genuine. She knew him enough to be certain that he would not commit himself to this relationship only for her looks. Yet her action just communicated the opposite.
His eyes surveyed hers before he continued. She thought she saw a hint of sadness in them. Or maybe it was disappointment. She couldn’t tell.
How did you expect me to respond? I still think you’re beautiful. The marks on your body are not things to be ashamed of; they are what make you human. I too have scars, and so do the billion people in this world. I would not call that imperfect; it is simply what you make of it. Perhaps your idea of a body without imperfections — whatever that means — exists only in your mind.
She pondered upon the idea for a while. Never had she thought of the body as the fabric of life. The body grew as she grew. Life wore and tore it in both a natural and not-so-natural process. Her stretchmarks were the byproducts of her puberty, while the scars were caused by an accidental slip of a knife, or a fall, or a fight. None of that could have been avoided.
But there was a gap between accepting her body as it was and learning to love it. It was a gap that she needed to fill in order to feel at ease in her own relationship. Where should she even begin?
Her boyfriend reclined back in his seat, contemplating on what more to say. He reminded himself of the fact that she was new to relationships, and that talking some sense into her was not something he could, or should rush. He would not mind giving her time, as time was all they’ve got. What seemed to bother him more was how much trust was still missing. He had thought often about life, and he was confident that one builds trust with honesty. He had been nothing but honest with her since the start, but maybe he needed to dig a little deeper in himself.
Listen, you are not the only one with insecurities in this relationship. There are things I wouldn’t like you to notice about me too, because I don’t like how they look. I cannot change them, so I have tried to make peace with them. But the vulnerability is still there, you know?
Vulnerability is uncomfortable — that she was aware of. Vulnerability was exactly how she felt when she let him in on the imperfections that she had been hiding. Vulnerability was also how he felt as he drew her attention to his own ‘imperfections’.
But the thing was, she never saw these ‘imperfections’ in the first place. Was it perhaps because nothing about him was imperfect? Even his farts don’t smell — she had a silly thought. When she looked at him, she saw the depth of his mesmerizing blue eyes and the playfulness of sunlight on his head. When she looked at him, she saw the gaze of love, happiness and attention. What he might have deemed undesirable, she found cute, charming and unique. Her feelings for him had not decreased by one bit, now that she knew what he wanted her not to see.
And suddenly she realized how he might have felt on the other side as she handed him that list. She had fabricated problems out of thin air where there were no problems to begin with. She got scared and depressed at a prospect that would never have been. He had shown her what one saw when they looked at the one they love. It was an image filtered through the lens of affection, pureness and little obstruction by whatever judgement and boundary that society placed on them. She knew that it was not how she saw herself yet, and that she still had a long way to go until she could love herself the way he loved her. But at least she knew now where the journey of self-love began.
It all started with a heartfelt compliment: You look beautiful today.