I have an old fashioned, claw foot tub, and no shower. I try to use the shower as much as I can in the summer months, but I slept in this morning. I shaved my head a few nights ago, and I'm still adjusting to the fact that it still gets oily from the day and that I now have way too much shampoo and conditioner for one person. I have all these things I no longer need. I stopped shaving my legs too, so there's the remains of a 10 pack of disposable razors that sit neglected in a coffee mug by the sink. My cheap can of men's Colgate shaving cream rusts a ring on the back of the toilet.

I stand up and wash, since I can't seem to believe that I'm accomplishing much underwater. I have one of those poofy things you get with a pack of liquid soap, one of many that I've received and lost as efforts of women friends of mine to connect with me on the level of bath and beauty aids. I just use plain old Dove.

When applying shampoo now, I have to memorize the size of a dime and take it seriously. As I let the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner set, I find that I am treating my short hair like an infant, working consciously to coax it as it grows into a world of love and softness. I had been destroying my hair for years with dyes and strippers and long periods of growing it out, getting impatient, cutting it, and so on. This act of shaving it off completely is my last ditch effort to have healthy hair, since even when it's been unhealthy, I'd been told nice things about it. That it was thick and yet dried fast, that it was full even when it was short, that it smelled better when I quit smoking or framed my face like a flapper girl from the 20's.

The tub is worn of it shine and even when I've scrubbed, it's stained with the past 50 years, like so much of New Orleans. I exit it and catch my midsection in the mirror, noting that for all the crunches at the gym, I will forever have a little hill before the muscles, pale stretch marks on my thighs, and bruise somewhere on my legs. I don't fall over, I just bump into things a lot.

There are women out there, no doubt, who when they admit to the flaws of their form, will not caress their own skin. They apply lotion swiftly and almost without any feeling, like they're shellacking a dresser. My face is busy in its terrain. I have freckles and occasional pimples, a scar along my hairline on my forehead from chicken pox, a mole along the jaw line of my left cheek. My body is marred here and there with imperfections, some self inflicted, some by the natural humor of gravity and growth spurts. I have moles and freckles, what my mom called sun kisses, on my shoulders, arms and back. But for all the variety, my skin is soft and touchable. It may be due to genetic luck, but I hope it is also due in part to my attention, that as ugly as I thought I was growing up, that I treated my skin better than I treated my self esteem. I ran my hands over it and felt its mistakes, and quickly forgave it when it let me down. Often, when I am lonely, I will wrap my arms around myself and kiss my own shoulder, to remind me what a kiss there feels like so I don't forget simply because no one is there to do it.

People have told me I have a long and graceful neck and that with my hair shaved, it compliments my face more. I run my hands up the back of my neck and tickle the hairs there, sometimes allowing myself full sessions of cranial stimulation, allowing myself to smile that it feels good to be trapped in this skin. It is no longer the prison I once thought it to be.

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