There’s nothing better, in your eyes, nothing better in the world than an hour of twirling to music in your room. Alone, nothing to worry about, no motives or pressures—you dance for the sake of dancing and nothing else matters. You deep-cleaned your room a year or two ago, so you have enough space and a visible dance floor. And you’re happy in that hour, voices and beats washing over you like waves over sand. But you have to be quiet about it, because your parents might find you kicking in a circle like a plucked chicken in your room.
You’re not sure what to make of your parents. Sometimes they love you, and sometimes they hate you, and you don’t do drugs or drink alcohol or shoplift so you assume that they’re at least marginally proud of you. But you can never be sure. Maybe they think you’re crazy. You definitely know that they still think of you as a kid—but they like to ask you whether you’ll major in biomedical engineering, and no one asks a kid those kind of questions.
When you were small, your mother fed you almanacs and math books like tax returns into a paper shredder. She told you it’ll make you smarter, but you struggle to earn A-minuses at each semester’s end. She said, you’re a prodigy, honey, but a prodigy has to live up to her parents’ standards, and parents want more than a daughter who receives A-minuses. They want a one-hundred-pound model with Einstein’s brains, and you are only a pig with fecal matter for a mind. The state of your room back then proved your state of being. You lived in a pigsty, your dad told you, so you gritted your teeth and pulled some heavy-duty garbage bags from the kitchen cabinet. But you still felt like a pig afterwards, fat and lumbering, slobbery and idiotic.
Your mother would be angry at you if you threw away the family scale, because she says it reminds you that you need to lose weight. Your thighs are gargantuan and your arms rival those of an alpha gorilla’s. She tells you to play a sport, so you sign up for track and field in the spring. But who told you to weight-lift? Pick a more feminine sport.
Why are your friends so stupid? Pick better ones. It is not enough, now, that your friends don’t smoke marijuana. She jokingly asks for their transcripts and you laugh, empty.
In eighth grade, you had a boyfriend for three months. It was puppy love, nothing serious; you tell yourself that it wouldn’t have lasted much longer, anyway. You told him that he was too good for you. But your mother thought you were too good for him. She drove him home once, and when you got home she turned and told you that she’d already figured out his character. You dumped him the day after Valentine’s Day; you avoid him in the halls and he doesn’t talk to you anymore. But your mother is happy, and that is what matters. You aren’t good enough for her, but you’re too good for him.
Your parents’ expectations are taller than the stratosphere. And yet you can’t fail your kin, no matter how inadequate you are. You’re just going to have to shed more pounds, read more books, study with more fervor. You love your parents, and you’ll fulfill their wishes if it kills you.
Classical music makes you smarter, said a health expert in a video your mother forwarded to you. Her second text read so do it! You listen to Mozart and Dvorak until your brain bleeds key changes. Classical music will get you to an Ivy League, she says, so you replace your Fall Out Boy playlist with Beethoven. The best way to lose weight is dancing in your room, your mother said. You’ll be having fun and shedding pounds. So now you twirl to a playlist to shed pounds. And you twirl to classical music.
B. Jang is a high school junior with a passion for literature, particularly poetry and historical fiction. A member of her high school debate team and a political intern, she is deeply interested in helping to bring the flaws of society to light. Jang enjoys reading, playing the violin, and weightlifting. She really likes penguins.