Dear Ten,

You are rolled up shorts at the bus stop because you aren’t allowed to leave the house in short shorts. You are afraid to make friends with anyone in a bigger body, but it’s not your fault. You are afraid if you bring them home to play, your character will be judged because clearly fat people are a number of things in which you hope you are not.

So you pine for the popular kids despite the sea between your personalities. You pretend hard. You try, so hard, everyday. But you’re missing something that makes a popular kid. You’re not sure what exactly, but it will be that way for the rest of your school days. Your head starts to drag more and your eyes catch the sight of your rolled-up shorts. It’s the shorts, you think. But you are smart enough to know that’s not it. Your brain searches for another answer and comes up with: fat. Your thighs are fat. The other kids don’t like you because you’re too fat.

None of this true. You are, in fact, very (naturally) thin. And liked by everyone except the most (mean-spirited) popular kids. The lies keep coming in after you accept the first one. Now you are no longer good at math, or art, or gymnastics. You let yourself hold onto reading and writing. But it seems like a secret no one can know. It sort of is.

***

Ten feels like she is doing things wrong all the time, and constantly on the verge of getting in trouble. But you (almost) never got in trouble.

Ten needs someone to tell her she is so smart. So creative. So perfectly made. She needs it in writing, so she can read it over and over when her confidence fades. And she needs someone to come sit with her in the wash behind her house, and let her cry while she tries to verbalize that at just ten, she feels inconsequential and crushed.

She is fragile and scared and anxious and so little.

She needs you.

But you still feel inconsequential and crushed and like you cannot ever get enough love despite all the love coming in.

She needs you, but you are ten.

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