Have you ever had someone lay their fingers along the spaces between your ribs and squeeze? Really find those fleshy bits between the bones and just curl into them? I have. The thing is, you can’t help your natural reflex in reaction to that strange, visceral, intrusive feeling. Your body knows, “hey, I don’t think I should be touched there!” and so it flails wildly, almost manically, to protect your most vital organs, even if there’s no real threat.
My wife loves the spaces between my ribs, but has kindly refrained from squeezing them since I’ve asked her to stop. Still. I’m a nervous person, and the guard just goes up sometimes – can’t help it.
The other night, we were laying in bed and cuddling, and I was about on the brink of passing out while baby lay curled over me. Her hand rested on my chest, her head lay nestled between my shoulder and my chin, and I was smelling her hair – a vague scent of shampoo, still a little wet from the shower. Everything felt warm and right and peaceful, but for the fact that (as exhausted as I was) baby was like a shaken up soda can of hyperactive lesbian. She was happily chatting away when her hand traveled a little lower, then circled around my side and her fingertips moved into those vulnerable little dips.
“Noooooooo,” I whined, and I yanked her hand away.
“But I can’t sleep!” She protested, laying her leg over mine and lifting her head to give me that wide-eyed, entreating look. “I won’t squeeze! I just want to count your ribs! It’s soothing.” I can never deny her anything when she gives me that look. (She has very long eyelashes and very blue eyes. It’s my kryptonite.)
So I let her hand go, cautiously, and relaxed a little bit. She teases and jokes, but she never lies to me, so I knew she’d at least stop herself from squeezing even though I know how much she loves it. She moved her hand back over to my rib cage and I took in a breath.
“You know,” I offered as her fingertips began to dance gently over each individual rib, “you could count sheep instead.”
And baby chuckled lowly, snuggling closer, warm and soft and sweet. And then she proceeded to say the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard come out of her mouth, in a voice that sounded like it should have been wafting inexplicably down the halls of an abandoned building.
“There are no sheep here,” she whispered, “but there are plenty of your bones.”
And somehow that simple statement was more instinctively horrifying than the feeling of fingers in the spaces between your ribs. Turns out, it inspired the same reaction. I flailed, and she laughed and laughed and laughed until I was laughing too.
You stared at yourself in the mirror, your gaze momentarily flickering to the door you’d locked before turning back to yourself. The shower had long since been forgotten as you gazed at your bare figure in the mirror of the skeleton brother’s bathroom. Back at your old apartment, you’d given away all but one of your mirrors, and seeing yourself on display was making you feel sick.
You could barely handle looking down at yourself when you were changing, let alone being forced to see your entire body in the hyper-lighting of the skele bros bathroom.
You wanted to look away, but you were having trouble doing so. Your eyes hadn’t seen your full body in so long, not even last night, when you’d been bare in Sans’ bedroom. Now, however, it was nearly impossible not to stare.
You pinched at you bare hips, glaring at the sum of flesh gathered there with a surge of discontent. Your eyes trailed over your form reluctantly, taking in every little imperfection without a trace of forgiveness.
Your gaze lingered on your thighs, and the faint stretch marks there which you’d gotten during puberty. Your mom had pointed them out at the lunch table recently, when you’d worn your favorite pair of shorts. They’d mostly faded from the ugly red they’d been when you were younger, but standing in the bathroom in nothing but your undergarments, they stood out like snow in july.
You glanced away, feeling your eyes begin to sting.
Next in your analysis of yourself where your hips and stomach, both of which you nearly always hid behind an oversized sweater or hoodie. There was too much flesh, there, despite your best efforts to cut down.
You bit your lip.
You remembered the time your sister had put away half the food on your plate when you were twelve. When you had asked why, she’d shrugged with a less than discreet glance at your figure. Or when your mom had informed you that you couldn’t wear your favorite shirt because it showed off too much skin, and who wanted to see that?
You’d stopped eating for a week, after that.
Your arms were not as toned as you would like. Your baby fat had never quite left your face, and your smile showed off the gap in your teeth your braces had never quite been able to fix.
Your entire life people had stared at you without ever seeing. All they saw was how you looked, and how much skin you were showing, how much makeup you were wearing, how tall you were, how much you weighed, and how you dressed. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad, but you never failed to overlook the bad. How could you, when someone was constantly at your ear telling you how little you measured up?
You’ll never look as pretty as they are.
Your own mother thinks you’re ugly, and she’s your mom.
Who would want that?
You hugged your arms over your chest as your eyes finally settled on your face, only to realize with a start that you were crying.
“whatcha doin’, sweetheart?”
You cursed violently at the sound of Sans’ voice right at your ear, and you stumbled backwards away from him as you clutched at your chest. He wasn’t supposed to be home yet.
“shit, kid, sorry. i, uh, didn’t mean to scare ya,” Sans quickly backpedaled, holding up his hands in front of him like a shield. You didn’t even care, however, wiping at your eyes furiously as you tried to hide the fact you’d been crying. Your face burned with shame as you shrunk in on yourself, trying to hide as much flesh as your would with your arms. It wasn’t as if Sans hadn’t seen you undressed before or anything, but you just weren’t in the mood to expose yourself at the moment. He’d just stare, and you were so sick of people looking at you and only seeing your body.
“Maybe knock next time, Sans?” you managed after a moment, meaning your words to be light and humorous. However, your voice cracked besides yourself, which was something that did not go by Sans unnoticed. He froze, finally taking in the tears on your face and the way you were curled in on yourself.
“hey, you okay, sweetheart?” “Yeah, I’m alright.”
You were lying, and Sans was not an idiot. His shit-eating grin slid off his face.
“shit, kid, i’m sorry, it was just a joke.i didn’t mean ta upset you,” He stammered. You’d never responded to his scares like that. “i, uh, saw your clothes outside, and, um, thought you might be showering and would maybe want a little compa….”
You stared sharply at your toes, refusing to let the tears fall from your tratious eyes. You didn’t trust your voice anymore.
There was a pause.
You glanced up at him with a convincing smile. “Hey, it’s okay! I’m fine, I told you.” Your eyes glimmered, and your dimples gnawed at your cheek as you laughed it off.
Except that’s not what you did.
What you did was start sobbing.
Sans was on you in an instant, his sockets wide and his hands flying over you as he checked for any harm that had come to you to procure such an abrupt spurt of tears.
“shit, kid, what is it? are you- did something happen? are you hurt? did anyone- what happened? are you okay?”
You shook your head, hugging your knees to your chest. Sans cursed under his breath.
“did someone hurt you?”
You shook your head yet again, shuddering as your fingers clutched at your eyes. You didn’t want him to see you crying. You didn’t want him to see you at all.
“did i hurt you?”
“No,” you managed, burying your face in your arms.
“what happened, then? c’mon, sweetheart, talk to me.”
“It’s stupid,” you replied shortly, pulling your hand away from his grip. He was firm, however, and kept you still.
“you’re fucking crying, that’s not stupid. you’re crying and i don’t know why, and that’s not stupid.”
“I’m crying because- because I’m sick of being me, okay?” You suddenly burst through your tears, your voice coming out a little garbled from the emotion clogging your lungs. Sans seemed momentarily taken aback, and you couldn’t seem to stop yourself now that you’d started. “I’m so sick of looking at myself in the mirror and seeing someone I hate looking back. I hate people looking at me and only seeing how I look. I hate my thighs, and my skin, and my neck, and my cheeks, and the stupid bags under my eyes. I hate my smile, and my boobs, and my stomach. I fucking hate it, Sans, i-”
You cut yourself off with a broken sob, hiding your face in your arms as you curled in on yourself a little tighter. Wet, hot tears streaked down your face and burned at your eyes.
It was just too much.
The next thing you knew Sans was wrapping his arms around you, hugging you so tight all the breath was knocked out of your lungs. You tensed for a moment, before throwing your arms around Sans yourself and burying your face into the crook of his vertebrae.
He rocked you back and forth in his arms, holding you tighter and tighter as he whispered assurances and genuine murmurs of comfort into your ears. He told you how much he loved you, and how perfect you were. He told you how much he cared about you, and how lucky he thought he was you’d ever even looked at him. He ran his fingers through your hair and told you that you meant the world to him. He looked you in the eyes and kissed away your tears with so much reverence and sheer love you felt as though you might cry again, and you were anything but a whimp. On the contrary, you were one of (if not the) strongest people Sans had ever met, which he informed you firmly. He’d never once thought you were anything less than perfect, and anyone who dared to think otherwise was either blind or an idiot. You were incredible. He loved every single inch of you, and wouldn’t trade you for all the naps in the world.
He didn’t bring it up again, after that. He just gave you one of his shirts and pulled you into bed, where he turned on your favorite TV show and ran his fingers through your hair. He’d always been a decently affectionate person, but ever since then he’d begun to express it more and more often.
You certainly didn’t feel perfect right away, but that was alright. You figured even if you didn’t love yourself, Sans had more than enough love for you to cover for it.
Here’s the combination of several asks, all of which I have been wanting to answer for a while.
You guys are beautiful, okay? Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I used to have a lot of body image issues (mostly because of things family members had said to me) and it had gotten to the point where I had stopped eating because of it. Don’t do that, guys. Don’t let people make you feel like you’re anything less then incredible. What do they matter, anyways? You shouldn’t be judged because of how you look, whether it be good or bad. So what if your nose isn’t straight? It’s still the most damn adorable thing in the world. So what if your face is round? You’re still fabulous. So what if you’re short? You can give better hugs!