Dear 20-year-old Melanie,
Remember on New Years Eve 2012, when things got a little wild and you ended up with a concussion? Fast forward a few days, and you got bit by a spider, which you ignored for a solid seven days. Once you finally went were fireman’s carried to the ER by a coworker (and yes, you’re still THAT stubborn), they cut it open to drain the infection and sent you on your way with antibiotics… antibiotics that made you so sick that you’d throw up within 10 minutes of taking them. Meanwhile, your monthly friend arrived, and so did a nasty stomach bug.
Over the next three weeks, you couldn’t keep anything down and was all but bed-ridden, unable to differentiate if it was the lingering effects of your concussion, the spider-bite antibiotics, or the stomach virus that had you down for the count. Nonetheless, you entered into the month of February a solid 20 pounds lighter.
On Valentine’s Day, you were going to a “Stop-Light” party. The color of your outfit signified whether you were taken (red), dating (yellow), or single (green). You went to Body Central (i.e., the quintessential college wardrobe store) and bought a tight, off-the-shoulder, hug-you-everywhere, green dress.
You got more attention in that green dress than you had in your entire life and the Instagram photo you posted that night was your most-liked. For the remainder of that semester, no matter where you went, people kept complimenting you on how amazing you looked, before picking their jaw up off the floor long enough to ask you how you did it. Even still, your contact photo in your friend’s phone is a picture that was taken that February.
You developed quite a complex during this time. One that had you in the gym desperately trying to maintain the skinny, little version of yourself simply because it was apparent that the skinny, little version of yourself is what other people liked.
I want you to know that other people’s opinions of your body should not shape your opinion of YOUR body. You had always loved your 150-pound frame — strong, muscular, athletic. Your belly was always a problem area, (and yes, sorry to break it to you, but it still is), but overall, you love your thicker physique, then and now. It was only when others obsessed over the 130-pound Melanie that you developed a warped body image, namely because you wanted to maintain that slim figure even though you knew it was achieved through illness, not a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Please stop printing that picture as inspiration. In fact, just remove that dress from the back of your closet. And gosh, don’t pack it the next three times you move, convinced that one day you’ll fit into it. You won’t.
After many years, you will finally stop looking at that picture in the green dress as something to aspire to, which is to say, that you no longer aspire to be someone else’s definition of beautiful. I just wish you knew that now.
P.S. Stop being so reckless on New Years Eve!