By Cara Hösterey
I’m writing to you on valentine’s day. Are you my lover now, acne? You are the only partner that stayed long enough to make it to February, anyways. You are the only one I never imagined into my life, I only ever wished you away. I’m sorry for that, you must feel very unwanted.Fifteen-year-old me wanted to have a boyfriend at eighteen, and to have traveled, and to have the life at uni I had come to expect. I wanted to be brilliant, illuminated, and you just were not in that vision of who I’d be right now. You took that version of my future-self away from me, and I have spent hours desperately trying to reconcile my phantasies with who I had become. I was completely blindsided by the force with which you came into my life. Should I have seen the signs? But then again, no one expects to get the worst acne of their life post-puberty. I still try to honor what my younger self desired, but I cannot help feeling ashamed of how motivated by pure hate was. What I feared and despised within myself, I judged others for. Where I felt myself measuring up to my standards, I pitied those who did not. Who told me it was okay to be filled with such contempt for vulnerability, for imperfection? Where did I first hear the sentences now playing on repeat in my head, and why did I ever make them my own? Why did I have to be confronted with myself in such an obvious way to see myself fully, without fear of the ugly within? Whatever the answer to these questions may be, I thank you for helping me snap out of that mindset, however violent you might have been.
I know I fight you every day, so you might not feel very loved, but I need you to know that you are. I love you for introducing me whenever I enter a room: bold, fierce, a little obnoxious, probably. I cannot hide you, much like I could never hide myself for too long. I was never mysterious, what you see is what you get, and you realized that before me. You knew there was no use in concealing imperfections, that vulnerability is a lifeline, even when I didn’t. You are forceful, brutal, and sometimes it feels like you are lashing out at me, punishing me. But that never was your intention, was it? You want to be acknowledged most of all, and I have not given you that. Again, I’m sorry. I’m fighting to change it every day.We are in a toxic relationship, and it’s my fault. I try to tell you all these beautiful words, studied “positive affirmations”, but day after day, my actions betray my intentions. I show up to the battlefield, ready to hurt you, make you burn and itch. I don’t argue enough, and then let it all out on you. I’ll make room for disagreement elsewhere, I promise. You won’t be my punching bag forever. Thank you for forcing me to exist truthfully wherever I go.
I live with these contradictions every day, moments of absolute confidence, and not just despite you but because of you, and then it turns on me. And I feel grateful for the pandemic keeping me inside, the mask guarding me from looks at the supermarket. You aren’t one or the other, not just a blessing or curse, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe there is comfort in the contradictions. Because it’s the only truth there is, ever. Maybe learning that lesson was the point all along. Thank you.