It came on Facebook, the invite: a massive pool party, 1000 people, at least, from all the right sort of high schools and families and country clubs and hidden leafy blocks of the city. The invite list: skinny, rich, and stunning: the sort of coltish bodies and tamed manes that only centuries of wealthy breeding and a pact with Satan can buy.
Yes, I knew the party was coming. It happens every year, yet still, immediately, I threw out my kesitas and headed to the closest verduleria: I would be eating ‘healthy’ for the next three weeks. I would be drinking only water. I would have my tightest, tautest abs, pertest ass, and most eye-popping bikini. Maybe it would seem extreme to some—the uninitiated—but I knew it would be easy, I’d done it the year before, and the year before that, and I had looked completely and entirely amazing—slender, diminished, hungry, beautiful. (If you can measure looking amazing by how many men want to ride the mechanical bull with you, then yeah, I looked fly).
It’s November 1st, the end of spring, and the party is three weeks away: welcome to summer, welcome to pool parties, to all night asados, to short shorts, to the end of school, to the eight weeks of nonstop parties—from pool to dance floor to dawn—from the second you leave your last parcial until you return to the city limits on January 15th, bronzed and broken.
Welcome to my diet, to our diets. To the gym every day, twice a day, to the cabbage soup fasts, to juice cleanses, to no carbs, no salt, no sugar, no dairy, and to hunger, to hunger, to hunger.
At this moment, as everyone celebrates with that particular maenadic joy reserved only for mid-November, I respond, with pavlovian efficiency, by clearing out my fridge. I vow with my secret sisterhood that this will be the year that I am that paragon of all virtues: thin. It’s two weeks out from the party.
Do I stop to ask myself why? Every day. I want to know why. I want to know why anyone would make themselves physically uncomfortable so that their body could fit an arbitrary mold that was decided sometime in the 1960s as the pinnacle of beauty. As I shovel another unflavored spoonful of oatmeal into my mouth, I wonder, like a recovering member of a brainwashed cult, how could anyone believe that it’s ever worth it to be hungry?
But I already know why, and so does every girl in a bikini. Haven’t we all been programmed, taught, instructed, to believe that to be beautiful means to take up as little physical space as possible? That the mental fortitude required to diminish one self is deserving of the highest praise? “You’ve lost so much weight!!” we exclaim, as if we are proud that yet another person has tortured themselves into a flat belly, into minisculinity.
Ah, to be small, to be small, that paragon of all female virtues, to take up no space, to show that you are willing to perform all sorts of contortions, both emotional and physical, to make sure that you stay that way. To be obedient, to carve up your body as you are told it should look. To cut a line down your abdominals with a salad knife, to scoop out your cellulite with a soup spoon. To serve it to those who would consume your offering, wrapped, as always, in a palatable clever joke, “My body is a temple, that’s why I’m on a wine diet!” Hah!
Isn’t that funny? Aren’t we all funny? Are you laughing ‘til your belly hurts? Was it hurting already?
It is not quite hurting yet but it is very bored and the party is a few days away. I am wondering how often I should be going to the gym, how often I should be eating. How thin is too thin? When do I go from sexy to unsexy? What is too much muscle? What is too little?
A constant female conundrum: to be both seen and unseen. Both mysterious and down to earth, hard-to-get and easy going, virgin and whore, thin but sexy but modest but desirable. At what point does a thin body go from skinny to sexual, from mousy to idealized? At what weight am I tiny but still voluptuous but confident but not too full of myself? What is the perfect weight, shape? At last count, I follow the Instagram accounts of seven porteño bikini designers, and all of them have instructed me to be thin, but all in different ways. Do I need to look like Pampita when I put on my swimsuit? Or do I need to look like China Suarez? Or should I be as skinny as the 15 year old that stars on the Disney channel? How do I attain the big breasts and flat stomach and that seem to be the staple of every girl inside a Maria Cher? Isn’t it all the same? Which bikini complements my body just enough, and which will attract salacious looks and sneers for crossing a line? For being too much? Where is that line? Will there be a sign posted next to the pool rules to let us all know? I want a sample size of 1000 people to tell me at exactly which measurements I am deemed acceptable and at exactly which measurements I will be hunted, or ridiculed, or worse, ignored.
But there is no more time. It is the day of the party. We are here, in our vividly patterned swimsuits, like exotic birds of paradise, strutting around on toned pins, ready for our yearly display. The men flirt with me, the girls ask where I bought my bikini, and we are all laughing, in between guzzling water guns full of beer and foam fights and silent judgment of one another. And everyone wants me, but just enough.
I am perfect; it is perfect.
At long last, once a year at the pool, the attention I have been born for. I am both starving and bright, famished and dazzling.
I am hungry; I am sated.