How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?

It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.

As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.

Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.

Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.

Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.

It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?

For this average white guy, countless.

But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.

So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?

I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.

But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.

Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

With all stones cast

With all stones cast

There’s a pot still boiling

And a kettle left black

There’s a house still standing

With thinly cracked glass

There’s a kink in the line

With a reel still intact

There’s a spell in the ether

Waiting to be cast

With all stones thrown

There’s a hole full of flesh

There’s a crack in the arrow

There’s an angry protest

Each body a story, color, and time

Each arrow head sharpened, pristine, and divine

Each voice becomes voiceless, estranged, and unkind

With all stones turned

There lies not a soul

The truth is but squalor

Results are annulled

In a garden of daisies

Rest youthful and old

A graveyard of rubble

for silver and gold?

heroine and Burroughs

Watch your soul.

I’d say tongue but I don’t harbor
the arrogance I once spewed.

Give me a break, like I dealt it
in cards, knowing you’d take the Ace.

I am only human, I have no other excuse.

I was scared of losing, most of all I was terrified that I could choose.

Does it feel good to see through me
like spotted glass, knowing your
windows are clean?

And why do I bother to even ask? It’s not you who hold the answer, I can see, it’s I who has stood
idle, waiting to turn the key.

So if you’re looking through the peephole, please don’t make a sound.

I can see your shadow quiver, mine quivers there too.

But I can’t turn that key with a lock full of gum.

Another way out then, ah, hum — there’s a pauper selling candy, eating pizza on 68th next to Sole — so I’m pretty sure we’ll meet again, like heroine and Burroughs.