by Kelly Lynn Thomas

You know—or used to know—three things.


  1. In your youth, when you embraced an obnoxious and overt homosexuality to compensate for your teenage awkwardness and unknowing, you rejected the idea of your body as something to be ashamed of, something to be changed, something to be hidden.
  2. The luxury of love has clothed you in silks and velvets since the day you met your girlfriend, Abby.
  3. You do not believe in insincerity or apology.


Emily changes all this, but not all at once.

Perhaps if you could remember the exact moment you became aware of the wideness of your hips, the heaviness of your breasts, the flatness of your feet, the indent in your left cheek leftover from chickenpox when you were seven, you could fight it, the way you’d fought it as a teenager. But the shame, the desire to look like them, comes seeping in like water, filling you up until it rushes through the cracks in your self-esteem.

You meet Emily at your Wednesday night yoga class. Her skin glows behind a pink form-fitting Lululemon yoga tank top that defines her abdomen: flat, except for the hard definition of her abs and the swell of her small breasts. Her long brown hair, pulled up into a messy bun, shimmers with chestnut undertones. She looks more like a mirage than a real woman. Her whole being shifts in and out of existence as you watch her stretch her arms into warrior pose. You wonder if she has ever considered modeling for shampoo commercials.

You introduce yourself after class, and then immediately wish you hadn’t. What will this woman with perfect mascara think of your girlfriend’s grease-stained Pep Boy’s t-shirt tucked into your old college sweatpants?

But Emily doesn’t seem to notice. “I just moved to the city, so I’m trying out all the yoga places to find one I like,” she says.

She agrees with your assessment that this class has the best yoga teacher. You invite her to the Starbucks across the street for coffee, and are—pleasantly, you discover—surprised when she says yes.

“Have you read the latest issue of Daring Woman?” Emily asks over her steaming green tea. “There’s a fantastic workout routine for toning your abs using yoga.” Without waiting for your answer—a “no,” as you haven’t read a so-called women’s magazine in more than a decade—she pulls the magazine out of her Prana messenger bag and flips to a dog-eared page. The scents of perfume and ink rise from the magazine, overpowering the smell of your dark roast. “Want to borrow it? I finished it already.”

You sense that to reject the offer of the magazine would be to reject the budding friendship, and you very much want to befriend this woman with sharp cheekbones and arched eyebrows. The way she holds her shoulders straight and her head erect promises that you, too, can morph your curves into straighter, smoother lines.

When you take the magazine from her hands, you feel something strange pass through your body. A change, but what kind, you can’t tell: a whisper traveling your synapses, leaving dandelion seeds in its wake.


As you turn pages and pages of ads for expensive watches and perfume looking for the yoga workout or even a table of contents, you see an article called “Guys Dish on What Really Turns Them On.” Even though you have never had sex with a man and find nipples on flat chests oddly disconcerting, you wonder if men like the same things you do. You read that men like women who act like ladies on the street and demons in bed, women who are rich, women whose breasts fit perfectly into their hands, and women who aren’t afraid of a good blow job. The accompanying photograph features a white woman with a flat stomach in blue lingerie and wind-blown hair kissing a shirtless white man with a five o’clock shadow and blond hair gelled into spikes.

You stare at this photo for a long time, tracing the outline of the woman’s hips with your finger. Is she attractive? You can’t decide, and you realize you can’t remember what first attracted you to Abby five years ago. The way her high heels made her ass stick out? The way one dreadlock always fell out of her ponytail and framed her face? The way her brown skin contrasted with your pale skin? The fact that she had been reading The Picture of Dorian Gray before your college economics class began?

The click of Abby’s key in the lock startles you out of yourself. Your first impulse is to hide the magazine. Instead you close it and place it face-up on the coffee table, then roll the stiffness out of your shoulders and neck. Abby’s lips part in a happy smile. When she kisses you, she tastes the way she always does after a day changing oil and rotating tires—tinny, like some undiscovered mineral buried deep in the earth.

“What’s that?” she says, frowning in the direction of Daring Woman.

You blink up at her. “A magazine.”

“Obviously. Why is it on our coffee table?” She walks back to the door to hang her jacket and backpack on a rack made from recycled silverware.

“Emily let me borrow it. There’s an article about yoga in it.”

Abby’s frown deepens, creating tiny folds in the skin around her eyes. “Who’s Emily?”

You want to say that Emily is something more than human, that she is beauty itself, but instead you say, “I met her at yoga yesterday, remember?”

“No,” Abby says, her voice flat. “I can’t imagine how an article about yoga in a trashy makeup magazine can have anything interesting to say.”

“It’s written by a yoga instructor,” you say, not wanting to admit that you haven’t read the article yet, unsure why you rush to defend the magazine that you didn’t want to take in the first place.

“I’m sure all the pictures have been photoshopped so the woman looks like a big-boobed, skinny-waisted Barbie doll. With impeccable makeup, of course, so you’ll get the urge to run out and drop a hundred bucks on Cover Girl.” Abby makes a move to pick up the magazine, but stops just before she reaches it. “I don’t even want to touch it. Those things are poison.”

You pick the magazine back up, making a concerted effort not to roll your eyes. “I’m not stupid, Abby, I know when someone is trying to sell me something.”

“But that’s all those magazines are!” Abby throws up her hands. “They’re selling you on a standard of beauty that’s impossible to reach. Every word and every photograph is designed around that standard.”

“When’s the last time you even read a magazine?” You ask, wondering again why you are defending something so clearly full of makeup ads and the promise of sex.

“I see the headlines when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store. When they say things like ‘Two Weeks to a Hot Summer Bod!’ I don’t need to read any further to know it’s bullshit.”

You open the magazine to a random page. A woman with wings and pouty lips in a black lacy bra and panties stares out at you. You shrug “You’re certainly entitled to your opinion,” you say, trying to keep your tone light and airy, like the woman in the ad.

You don’t hear Abby’s response because you’re already lost in a story about Jackie, who went from being the dumpy pushover in her male-dominated office to getting a complete (sexy) makeover and gaining the confidence she needed to take control of her career and rise to the top of her company.

You, like Jackie, know what it’s like to feel the world’s judgmental eyes on you. You, like Jackie, know what it’s like to be assessed and to be found lacking. You recall your first date with Abby, when you took her to a gay club downtown. You wore a fishnet top, black mini skirt, and purple knee-high-boots. That night, in that outfit, you’d felt like a mad lesbian dominatrix, capable of bending the whole damn world to your will. It had been so long since you felt that rush of power, that rush of perfect certainty, that you wondered, reading Jackie’s story, if it had all been a dream.


At yoga the next Wednesday you return Emily’s magazine.

“I had to buy my own copy,” you tell her. “I’ve been doing those exercises, and I can really feel it.”

“Awesome!” Emily’s eyes glow. She takes your hands in her own and holds them up to her chest. You feel a light-headed elation, as if your soul were taking a hot air balloon ride. “We should go on a Lululemon shopping spree to celebrate.”

You cannot afford Lululemon, but you want new clothes for the yoga body you are developing more than you want to remain debt free. Everyone else in your class wears form-fitting yoga pants and tank tops in black and neon that contrast with their white skin.

While the instructor leads the class through sun salutations, you think about the model in the article, standing in mountain pose, her outfit and its costs broken down at the bottom of the page. Golden Tiger signature tiger-striped yoga capris, $250. Skinny Yoga basic black racer back tank, $120. Chakra yoga mat, $400. Chakra yoga block, $100.

You repeat the brands and prices in your head like a mantra.


Abby no longer looks the same to you. Her dreadlocks hang like lifeless vines. Her skin has lost its sheen, her eyes darkened into black coals. You find something new to criticize each day: a packet of instant oatmeal left on the counter, a pair of jeans thrown on the floor, the houseplants that haven’t been watered in weeks.

In between arguments, you watch your own appearance closely and enjoy the youthful color your new makeup brings to your face.

The dandelion seed change takes root in your being, feeding on blood and hope.


“I don’t even know who you are anymore,” Abby says.

The words barely register. You are nose-deep in an interview with Katy Butterfly in Amber. You recall vaguely that you used to despise the woman for her casual treatment of lesbianism in a breezy pop song. The anger that had risen each time the song came on the radio now seemed like the softest cotton cloth, threadbare and pulling apart.

“I mean, come on, you’re reading an article about Katy Fucking Butterfly and not even paying attention to what I’m saying.”

You hear Abby’s words but tune them out. Katy is philosophizing about sex in tiny printed letters next to a full-page photo of her with her shirt open to reveal her rainbow bra and sizable cleavage. “Sex should be fun,” she says. “And it should always be with a guy you really like. Even if it’s just a hookup—and there’s something great about the freedom of a hookup—it should be someone you have a good sense of.”

Abby grabs the magazine and rips it from your grasp. The page with the photo tears with a loud zipper sound.

“Jesus Christ, Abby, are you five?” You stand up and let the photo page float to the coffee table.

Abby rips a page from the magazine and crumples it up. And another. And another. “No. But you are either in love with Emily,” she spits the name as if she were ejecting something rancid from her mouth, “or you’ve let capitalism take over your brain and are now obsessed with stupid shit like makeup and fake dykes. Either way, it’s killing our relationship.” Now she is tearing handfuls of pages out at once, hurling them to the floor like small paper meteorites.

“If I killed it, you just buried it,” you say, eyes narrowed at the ruined magazine.

You sling your purse over your shoulder and leave Abby crying on the couch.


When you return, a small Lululemon bag hanging from your elbow and a new copy of Amber clutched against your chest, you hear what sounds like retching coming from the bathroom.

“Abby?” you ask, knocking lightly on the bathroom door.

More retching. Then, a muffled, “Fuck off.”

“I didn’t really mean what I said before.” You shift your weight from your left foot to the right. “I just really don’t understand why you’re being so hostile about something that’s harmless.”

The bathroom door opens. Abby’s face is paler than you have ever seen it. Her eyes are red and swollen.

“You used to hate fashion,” she says. “You complained every time you saw one of those magazines about how unrealistic and overwhelmingly white all the models were. And yet now, all of a sudden, you’re obsessed with them. It’s like you’ve been infected with some sort of fashion parasite, and now the things that used to matter,” Abby draws in a breath. “Like me. Or your job. Those things don’t matter to you anymore.”

“Of course they do,” you say, knowing the words will fall flat before they leave your lips. You wonder why you even bother to pretend.

Abby looks at you, and her eyes plead. She takes your hand, and her skin feels cold and clammy. “Are you in love with Emily?”

Are you? You assess your feelings for Emily and her shampoo-commercial worthy hair, her sleek, toned frame, her flawless white skin. But what you feel is not sexual or romantic attraction. What you feel is something deeper, something harder. Something far more dangerous.

You look up and meet Abby’s eyes. They are dark brown and bloodshot, and you remember what it feels like to get lost in them. “No,” you say, “I’m not in love with Emily. She’s straight, anyway.”

Abby squeezes your hand, and you see in the way her jaw relaxes that she believes you. “Just do me a favor, okay?” she asks. “Think about how the way you’re behaving right now is affecting me, and more importantly, our relationship. Think about what you want for our future. If you see a future for us.” She looks down when she says that last line, and lets your hand drop from hers. “For now, I need to go to bed.”

You step out of Abby’s way without thinking about the action. You decide you will sleep on the couch that night. You don’t want to catch whatever Abby has, and you know you will stay up late reading, anyway. The new issue of Daring Woman has an article on determining the best dress style for your body shape, and you have plans to go shopping with Emily tomorrow. You will buy something nice for Abby, too, you decide. Something to show her you do care about her. Something to make her feel a part of the transformation you feel tingling along your capillaries, remaking you one cell at a time.

Before you steep a cup of green tea to sip while you read, you disinfect the bathroom and scrub the sink where Abby vomited. The porcelain shines beneath your sponge, spotless and pure. It is cool and hard and smooth against your fingers, like you imagine Emily’s skin would feel.

When you look at your reflection in the mirror, it shimmers, as if you stand behind a thick, glittery veil.

Good, you think. I am almost beautiful.

Kelly Lynn Thomas reads a lot and writes weird depressing fiction in Pittsburgh, PA. She lives with her partner, one dog, and a constant migraine. Her work has appeared in Permafrost, Sou’wester, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and other journals. Kelly received her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, is a coordinator for the VIDA Count, and can always be found with a large mug of tea. Read more at