I knew something was off when I woke up. I lay staring at the ceiling, listening to the sound of my breath. As the air flowed through my nostrils I knew that my breathing does not feel like it normally does; it feels deeper, more drawn out, slower. My skin felt tight on my flesh. Still lying down I pick at my skin, feeling it to be much coarser, not as pliable and… hairier? The other things can be rationalized, but not hair; there’s no way I have that much hair on my body. Why does my skin feel tight? How can skin even feel tight? I run my hands along my body, my chest my chest? My chest is far broader and flatterthanwhatitnormallyis whyisitlikethat IhaveabeardohmygodwhydoIhaveabeard,mypartsaredifbreathebreathebreathebreathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I’m sure if I go back to sleep this will all resolve itself. It’s 8am, I need to be at work by 9, I have time to spare to take a nap. I stare at the ceiling. There is no way I can take a nap at this state. I need to take a nap, it’ll all be over when I wake up. It feels the way wearing wet socks inside your shoes feels but all over my body. I shift in my skin. It feels so disconnected, I feel like I could peel it off without really hurting myself.
Can I peel it off? I dig nails into the arm, feeling the painful scraping feeling. Maybe I can, but certainly not painlessly. If I can sleep this will all go away.
I need to start entertaining the idea that I might need to show up to work like this. Will they understand? Looks are only skin deep, they should surely see me for who I am, they won’t treat me differently, right? This is definitely a lie.
My presentation affects the way people see me, the way they treat me. The way I look indicates my identity, and in turn I treat people differently based on their identity.
I mean it’s only natural right? If I see someone wear a shirt belonging to a particular sports team, I know that they would be more open to engaging in conversations regarding that team more so than others.
So if appearances can be a shortcut to knowing one’s identity and you treat people of different identities differently, then how I present myself influences how people will treat me.
If I don’t fix this now, I’m going to be late.
I get up and head to the kitchen, feeling the cold air from the open window on my naked skin. Maybe I could cut myself out of this skin? The way you’d do to a chicken: pinch the skin together and make a small incision so that you don’t cut the meat underneath, cut a small line, wriggle your finger around to separate the skin from the meat, pull the skin until you tear it further and further to the point that you can peel it off and discard it. Human skin is probably much thicker than that of a chicken, but the concept should be the same right? I pull a small knife from the kitchen drawer. I pinch the skin on the belly, lookingattheknifeintherighthand. Justlikeachicken, butI justneedtopull alittleharder, wouldIfeelpain? Itsnotmyskin butthescratchesstillsting somaybeitismyskin? CanIdoit?WouldIbeabletobearthroughitandcutmyselfout?Tearmyskinapartthroughtheseamswithoutlettingtheagonystopme?amiinsanecuttingmyselfoutofmyskinbreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
What a stupid idea. What would the people at work think if I came in a shambling mess of flesh, sinew, and bone. We have skin for a reason; as much as people say that appearances are only skin deep they simultaneously don’t really want to see what’s underneath.
I look at the genitalia. If not the entire skin, maybe I can at least cut that off?
I really am full of bright ideas today, aren’t I? I’d probably either bleed out and die or be forced to explain what happened to a doctor. Not to mention the medical bills, I’m not paid enough to be cutting myself like that.
At least I’d have an excuse for why I’m late to work.
I put the knife back in the drawer and lie back down in bed. Of course, they wouldn’t treat me any different than before. No, they’d only pretend. They would treat me the same as before, but the thoughts within their skin would be different. It’s all niceties, politeness. Would I rather have them keep that appearance or tell me how they really feel? Do I want to know what they think of me? I need the front they put up to make it easier to tell myself that I’m normal and that the way I look and present doesn’t matter. Is it all just a game of pretend that allows us to use each other’s façades to patch our insecurities?
If presentation is the problem, I can control how I present myself can’t I? Change it to how I wish others to see me?
I get out of bed and head to the bathroom. I collect my makeup off of the shelf and place them gingerly by the sink. I slather shaving cream that I normally use for my legs and lather it on the beard. I use my razor to try to shave off the facial hair, but it’s so thick I need to slowly work through it, a few clumps at a time, washing the blade after every swipe. The tangle of hair and cream falls into the sink. I look up at the mirror and… I think I look a little prettier now.
I arrange the makeup in the order I plan to use it. I layer on the foundation and use a sponge to spread it out, covering the ugly pores dotting my face. I highlight the parts of my face that light will reflect off, and I use bronzer below those areas for contrast. I add blush for some color on my cheeks, before getting started on the eyeliner. I finally add a bright red lipstick, slowly and deliberately as to not paint outside of my lips before slipping into a long, black, flowing dress. I raise my eyes and meet my reflection in the mirror. It’s not quite what I wished it looked like, my facial features still lean towards the masculine, and the makeup looks amateurish.
But I feel better looking at this face.
It’s 9:45, I think I’ll call in sick. I head back to bed and tuck myself in.
Maybe it’ll fix itself when I wake up.