Reading the Mess Backwards

June–July 2020, no. 422

Reading the Mess Backwards

June–July 2020, no. 422

Listen to this essay read by the author.

When I’m ten or so, my brother appears shirtless at the dinner table. Ever the eager disciple, I follow his example without a second thought. It is a sweltering January day, and our bodies are salt-crusted from the beach. Clothing seems cruel in these conditions.

As my brother tucks into his schnitzel, tanned chest gleaming, I grow conscious that the mood has become strained. Across the table, my parents exchange glances. The midsummer cheer of recent evenings is on hold.

I look down. Two small nubs peak from my ribcage, barely the beginnings of breasts. My torso is white and soft, a reptile’s underbelly to my brother’s hard brown exoskeleton. I realise: this chest of mine does not belong in public. It is somehow obscene, something to be hidden rather than flaunted. My brother and I differ in this crucial respect.

Excusing myself, I flee upstairs and don a T-shirt. Back at the table, there is a palpable sense of relief. Chatter resumes. All is well with the world.

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Comments (8)

  • Posted by Jorge Knijnik
    09 January 2022
  • Posted by Ally Cerritelli
    11 October 2021
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    08 January 2021
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    14 December 2020
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    25 November 2020
  • Posted by Kate Pitches
    18 November 2020
  • Posted by Anni Doyle
    10 September 2020
  • Posted by Alison Gidley
    27 June 2020

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