“You love life more than anyone I know,” said Chandler, leaning back in his white metal chair at an outdoor hookah bar in the East Village. It was the first day of summer, and I was drinking away my anxiety about my upcoming report card. “Thanks, That’s so sweet of you!,” I said pressing the sugar-rimmed sangria glass to my lips. “If only it were true,” I thought.
That night, I went back and re-read my first essay about overcoming my struggles with bullying. “I knew that one day, if I fought hard enough, I would make it. And I did.” “Bull fucking shit,” I muttered under my breath, closing my computer.
Growing up, my father, who like many members of the Tennes family, was infamous among his friends for his incessant complaining, took it upon himself to offer me his best relationship advice. “Nobody likes people that are negative,” he would say whenever I’d come home crying over the latest girl drama at my elementary school. “Grin and bear it. Happy?” he’d ask, shooting me his biggest smile. “Happy,” I’d say wiping my tears, forcing the corners of my mouth upward.
To this day, I’ve only met two of his friends.
“Ugh their abs are so perfect. Why can’t mine look like that?” I said as I scrolled through pictures of Tanya Poppet and Emily Skye on my Instagram feed. My boyfriend rolled his eyes. We were lying on his gray shag carpet after he had just finished his daily sit-ups. He was the epitome of fitness with a perfect six pack and sculpted arms.
“Why don’t you work out more if you say you dislike your body?” he said pointing at my stomach. “I think you’re insanely gorgeous, but all you do is complain but I never see you work out.” as usual, I rolled my eyes, sick of his preaching. Despite my bratty response, I knew he was right. “Fine, why don’t we go to the gym tomorrow morning?” I suggested, sitting up. “Sounds good,” he said. The day, he changed his mind, inviting me to jog with him to the Hudson River. “I can’t run outside,” I said over the phone the next morning, dressed in my Nike gym shoes and black leggings. “I can only run indoors. I know its weird, but trust me on this one.” He let out a groan. “You’re pathetic, you only ever make excuses about why you can’t do things.” sensing the concern in his voice, I agreed to meet him. After nearly three minutes of bitching, he’d had enough of my antics and sprinted away from me. As I ran after him, realizing the mistake I’d made and how I’d be lucky if he ever spoke to me again, I threw myself in front of a car. He continued running.
As I showed off my bruise the next day once we reconciled, I told him it was an accident. He pretended to believe me.
“I’m becoming a flexible vegan,” I told my mother on the phone as I paced outside of Kimmel, the warmth of the early May sunshine hitting my face. After stumbling upon a controversial dietician’s YouTube page, I was inspired by her lifestyle (and her perfect abs) to begin a new health regimen. “I’ve started working out more regularly and drinking more water. I feel healthier than ever and have so much energy!” Later that day, I made it Facebook official, my vegan friends ecstatic about my new lifestyle. “Welcome to the cult!” commented one of my friends sarcastically. “If you need any recipes, I got you!” wrote another.
Two mini break-ups, three final exams and one week later, I treated myself to a slice of cake, vegetable pasta with cheese, half a bottle of champagne, and four cigarettes. It was, after all, my birthday.
I stared at Jake on my cracked iPhone screen, my eyes swollen and itchy from crying. “I’m so sorry, I feel like I’ve mislead you,” I said blinking back tears. After messaging him on Facebook a little less than a year earlier, we became best friends nearly overnight. “As soon as I let my guard down and people realize that I’m not a fucking ray of sunshine like I am on social media, they leave, and I’m tired of it.”
He stared at me for a moment, as if pondering his words. “You can’t think you’re selfish just because you can’t eternally pretend to be happy. You can’t keep that facade up forever, its unsustainable. Listen bro, I’ve got your back, alright?” I let out a half smile. “Alright.”