Modern Woman Studies: “Girl Versus Girl” by Ailsa Burke

It’s not black and white. It’s not just confident women and women who aren’t. It’s not fat and skinny. Or happy and unhappy. Not even fully introvert or extrovert.

 

*

 

The Confident versus Not battle fluctuates daily. In the mornings, I’ll wake up and avoid the mirror as I brush my teeth. By the time I’m rushing out the door, I have to do a double take in the floor-length mirror to say, damn. Against my better judgement, how I carry myself through the halls often relies on who is walking beside me. Between first and second periods, I might as well be strutting down a runway. Between third and fourth, however, I am easily mistaken for a hermit scuttling to physics class.

 

*

 

Fat versus Skinny is also quite dependent on my surroundings. Alone in my room, figuring out an outfit for tomorrow, I love my body and admire its slenderness in the mirror between trying on dresses. By the end of the day, as I walk into show choir practice, that certainty of my figure is teetering. Once in the full swing of things, staring at myself in the mirror wall of the choir room next to stick-thin dancers, I’ve never felt chubbier. It’s not always a matter of “do I like my body or not?” it’s just “am I fat or skinny?” Certain mirrors do different things for this issue as well. That’s why I usually check out possible outfits in the floor-length mirror in the corner of my room – not the one in the hall.

 

*

 

The Introvert versus Extrovert issue depends greatly on the above mentioned battles. If I’ve had a majorly confident day and I feel good about myself, then I am much more prone to go out with friends. On the flip side, if I’ve been worrying about my appearance all day, it’s almost guaranteed I will stay home in oversized pajamas, binge-watching TV. If this battle isn’t affected by the day’s confidence, it can also be affected by who I’m with. I can start out the evening with two girlfriends and have a blast. By the end of the night, another girl and two guys have joined us, and the dynamics have shifted. It’s completely possible I will be inclined to flee to the safety of my home.

 

*

 

Some days I am more anxious in public than others. This is thanks to many fun factors including past negative experiences; my irrational fears and worries; people generally being judgmental pieces of shit, and hormones. I can go weeks – well, maybe a single week – feeling as free as a bird, like I can do anything and go anywhere and no one can bring me down. However, I am all too familiar with those moments where the dread of criticism leaves you holding on to an apple core for an half an hour after you’ve finished it and you can only be brought to throw it away after someone else does but not too soon after someone else does because that would look like you’re copying them and couldn’t throw and apple core away on your own which you definitely don’t want it to look like.

 

*

 

Happy versus Sad may seem like a battle dependent mainly on external factors, but, for me, it is almost always comprehensively internal. This is a super fun effect of dealing with mental illness. Some mornings I wake up and just feel like shit. No matter how many cookies I am offered that day, or puppies I see or hugs I get, sometimes I’m just sad. Vice versa is true as well, thankfully. It’s nice to have a good day that can’t be ruined by a thunderstorm or a physics test or even a shitty high school boy.

 

*

 

While these inconsistencies can be bothersome, at least they keep me on my toes. Gotta mix up the routine every once in awhile.

 

 

Ailsa Burke is a native of Iowa City, Iowa where she is currently a student. She have received the 2016 Scholastic Gold Key in Nonfiction, and her artwork has been published in Iowa City High School’s literary magazine, The City High Review.

Photo Credit: Quincas Moreira via Flickr