Most days when class ends at 12:35 I take the long way back to Mark Hopkins, skirting around Paresky instead of walking through to avoid running into people I know. I shut the door to my room behind me and let out a breath: this is my time and my space to be alone. I sprawl on my bed and wiggle my toes at the ice-cube-tray ceilings, snuggle into my pillows, munch on whole-grain Goldfish.
I kick off my shoes the moment I cross the threshold. Unlatch my bra and shimmy out from under sleeves and necklines. I am shedding the skins of the outside world, escaping the constraints of clothing that holds my body in. In my room, I can exist alone with my body. This lacquered wooden door is my only protection from the scanning, measuring, evaluating gaze of the world.
But I cannot escape my own gaze. My eyes trace over stretch marks running up and down my thighs, my fingers hover over dimpled cellulite as I turn back and forth in front of the mirror. I see my body through harsh and distorted goggles. I crane my neck to scrutinize the size of my calves. Sometimes I am happy with what I see, sometimes not, but I am always measuring myself against another's standards, seeing myself through another's eyes.
There are mirrors everywhere.
But one day, standing naked in the middle of my one-hundred square feet, my space that is both safe and shameful, I get the urge to take a picture. I don't take selfies because I never like the way I look, but today I point my phone camera to the mirror and reclaim the image it reflects. I challenge my reflection and my dismembering gaze with a new lens.
I am amazed at the wonder of my skin, the tiny grooves in my fingertips. I run my hands down my sides and feel the curves of my frame and I feel grounded. The photos feel like a reclamation of my own gaze, free from the eyes of the world and my own judgment of the girl in the mirror. The camera helps me to see myself as a beautiful creation, a piece of art, for just a moment. I am full of possibilities. This is my body.