Invisible Girls Are the Prettiest

It starts with a glance.

A strange, scrutinizing glance. Narrow-eyed, tight-lipped. Full of judgment; full of scorn. It sweeps over the person—usually a girl—and casts a shadow, long and dark, across her skin. And she knows something is wrong.

It starts with a comment.

A hurtful, misguided comment. Simply-worded, but oddly complex. From a stranger; from a relative or friend. The person on the receiving end—usually a girl—feels the comment sting, like a slap, and then the words burrow into her brain and stay there for years to come. For eternity. They lurk and wait to strike, wait to rush back up to the surface and hurt her all over again. And the words are like sticks and stones, breaking down the girl’s bones.

It starts with a magazine.

A glossy, unassuming magazine. Pretty pictures, painful advice. Easy to read; hard to forget. On the cover, there’s a model with protruding bones. Inside, there’s diet tips, commentary on which celebrities had lost their figures and which had regained their pre-baby bodies in record time, and there’s sections devoted to bikini season. The magazines are coy but pervasive. The person—usually a girl—who stares longingly at them on the shelf keeps them in mind when her stomach growls. The pictures comprise her goals, and their bikini advice becomes her mantra.

It starts with a book, a show, a movie.

A fun, carefree piece of entertainment. Romantic subplots, and skinny girls who get the guy. The pretty girls win the day; the ugly girls are teased, taunted, ignored. It’s only a certain type of girl who has a happily-ever-after. Only them. And the person despairing over this disparity—usually a girl—reminds herself to work harder, to eat less, to look better. It’s the only way.

It starts with a feeling.

A gnawing, awful feeling. Insidious, unspeakable. A feeling of inadequacy; a feeling of ugliness. It takes shape and takes hold, gripping the person—usually a girl—until it’s all-consuming. Until she can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, until she can’t find her way out. And she falls into the darkness, desperate and silent, unable to save herself. She wastes away until there’s nothing left but empty space. She diets until all that remains is air. And she tells herself, “It’s better to be invisible than fat. Better to die pretty than live ugly.”

No one tells her otherwise. No one stops what they started.

Years later, they’ll smile sadly at her picture. “Such a shame,” they’ll say. “She was so pretty.