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NOVEMBER 14, 2023

Most days, I actively try to avoid looking in the mirror when I wake up. When I have time, I do my hair, brush my teeth and wash my face all before raising my eyes to meet my reflection. 

For some reason, I just hate the way I look. I don’t find myself “pretty.” Gazing at my reflection in the morning feels like something I should dread rather than the moment of empowerment all the self-help tabloids tell me it should be. 

The negative way I see myself is like a virus that started at my face and has since engulfed my entire body. 

My routine of avoiding self-examination first began manifesting itself in the way I dress. My PJs went from soft tanks and underwear to baggy shirts and sweats. I could no longer bear looking at my cellulite or my bat wings, so I covered them up. 

The destructive body dysmorphia overwhelmed my bedroom activities from nightly and morning routines to the things that I did on the mattress. I had to find creative ways to hide these insecurities during sex. 

I began finding ways to cover every part of me when every part of me was exposed. 

Lingerie was a godsend. It allowed me to wear high waisted panties and bras that would hold my boobs in place so that they could remain “perky” and cupped. I mean, men love it right? 

I found it to be a win-win situation. 

Guys would get the fantasy that the media tells them they should want, and I would get to hide my insecurities behind lingerie — something that’s marketed as what confident women wear. 

However, having sex with clothes or lingerie on can sometimes get hard. And, as per usual, it was another pricey tag attached to being a woman. I didn’t want to wear the same set time and time again, but each set would run me well over $100. Also, I guess lingerie wasn’t an everlasting male fantasy because before I knew it, I got asked why I didn’t get naked during sex. 

So, I moved on to my next tactic: I started carefully positioning my body in ways that could hide my figure — that could hide who I was. It really sucked because I love cowgirl, but my insecurity simply did not allow me to get on top. I felt like my boobs bounced too much and you could see my stomach. 

Missionary was fine because I could position my arms over my head which would stretch my boobs enough so that they would bounce in a “porn-like” way. But, I would constantly flex my abs or suck in my stomach so that I could distort myself enough to feel okay having sex. 

I couldn’t put my legs on his shoulders like I love to do because it would bend my stomach too much and make my rolls too visible. So, laying on my side was okay. But this was only if I kept him distracted with French kisses so he couldn’t see part of my stomach fat drooping to the side. 

I deduced that doggy was probably the best for me. He couldn’t see my stomach and grabbing my a** would hide the cellulite. I did sacrifice looking at him and being able to grab him, but at the end of the day, I tried to justify this by telling myself that boys aren’t that fun to look at anyway.

These tactics were incredibly tedious both mentally and physically. It felt so anti-feminist of me in the same kind of way that faking orgasms feels now. I made sex performative, like an actress in a porn video. 

At that point, I wasn’t even having sex for me. 

I remember watching “Sex Education” on Netflix and realizing that I just needed to feel comfortable with myself. Now, I am not saying that the show magically cured my body dysmorphia, but it just made me notice that I am not a hookup girlie. 

I need to be able to talk through sexual issues with my sexual partners. I need to feel heard and held (down). I just can’t do that with any random man I meet. Intimate sex is for myself, where I can let loose with someone who doesn’t care about my belly rolls or bouncy boobs. Meaningless sex is a performance where I feel the need to hide all of my insecurities since they are a vulnerability I don’t want every rando to see. 

Now, I’m the kind of person who can only f**k friends or significant others. I can no longer do the randos I meet at parties. I need someone who I feel comfortable with — someone who won’t kiss and tell or someone who loves me for me. 

I still have trouble looking in the mirror every morning, that hasn’t changed. But I do feel sexually free at the least, I don’t have to act like I’m filming a sex tape and can instead just do what feels good. If anything, I’d love to see my reflection, just up on the ceiling like in those Vegas love motels — it might even turn me on.

Michelle Croteau writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

NOVEMBER 14, 2023