The frightening naked truth

By Madeleine Somerville

It takes courage to tell the stories no one else does. The stories where maybe your face didn’t seem as bright as you wished it did or where you ended up with skinned knees through no fault of your own. It takes courage to tell about the times you didn’t have the right words to spit back or the strength to stand up for yourself in yet another battle. It takes courage to say you didn’t have the energy to put on yet another suit of armor.

Those are the real stories. They aren’t glossy or airbrushed and they often have no point other than filling the silence and making you feel like you’ve shared something secret with the stranger sitting beside you. But they’re real and everyone has them for a reason.

It’s easy to sit back and tell the stories where you won, had the glory and were everyone’s golden child. The stories where you were the envy of every small pair of eyes that watched. You looked good, you felt good and you smiled so hard your face hurt. But after your cheeks relaxed and the moment passed, you breathed a sigh of relief because no one noticed your dress was ripped or you messed up your lines.

That’s when the real story begins.

You sit down in your empty room filled with the accolades and well-wishes of hundreds, thousands if you’re lucky. But all the words blur together, unreadable, because you’re crying and you don’t know why. Again.

This is the real story. This is real because it has more to do with you than every single one of the pretty smiles you put out there without knowing why. It’s real because it’s messy and pathetic and you’re alone like no one should ever be.

You’re jealous of everyone else, and you admit it. You let on every time you see a couple holding hands, you miss it. Every time you watch a mother and her child making sense of each other you wish you were there. Being truthful, slow and unwittingly beautiful, in either role.

You’re stupid sometimes and hate the things which elude you, the thoughts and ideas that seem to consistently slip you by. You would never think of blaming yourself, even when it’s your fault.

Not all of these small, brave stories are sad one’s however. There are those where you think things are ending and the cliches manage to pull through for you just once. Suddenly, there’s a breath of fresh air as windows open and new beginnings sprout from under every dusty coffee table.

You take deep breaths, calm down, and realize you’re real. You’re the one making that laugh bubble up and overflow again. You’re the reason for smiles and shy eyelashes.

It’s real when you’re bare and embarrassed because someone’s seeing the real you. They’re seeing what’s underneath the clothes and the makeup you put on for them, and you’re scared they might not like it.

Sometimes they don’t. You can tell by their faces they thought you were different somehow, better. And it’s just like tripping on the stairs going up to the stage, in front of all the people you love and hate, and hearing the laughter, feeling your face get hot. Scary and small. You think to yourself as the laughter fades that you will never tell anyone about this. Ever. Because you don’t want people thinking you’re the type of person who does that.

But one day you will, because you are. And maybe they’ll understand, because they are too–we all are.

We’re not perfect, not even close.

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