‘This Is Not a Picture of Me Naked’ by Jennifer Berney​​

— Melissa Mesku

The conflict that defines me is this: I desperately want to hide. I desperately want to be seen. This causes problems.

Once, as a stultifyingly shy fourteen year old, I heard a woman in her thirties say she loved being thirty because she finally felt right in her skin. I remember being perplexed. What did that even mean? Also—that sounds amazing, I want it, desperately, even if it makes no sense. Her interiority was so far away from my own that it was almost meaningless. Instead, I took my cues from the women I imagined I could be, women like Chan Marshall of Cat Power, a singer-songwriter so fragile that she makes it look hard, hard not just to be on stage, but hard to be alive. This exquisite essay by Jennifer Berney succeeds in transporting you into that skin. The kind of skin you can’t fake your way out of because it’ll just say What’s the use? I can see right through you. The insight in this piece is gentle yet revelatory, exposing the very nakedness of soul she speaks of. Barney writes, “I remind myself that some people walk through the world and simply inhabit their bodies. They don’t try to be smaller. They don’t try to fade into the wall.” They do, they do; I am now one of those people. Like a lizard, I crawled out of that early skin. Berney’s writing is one of the rare things powerful enough to have brought me back to it.

Cosmonauts Avenue