Lyz Mancini
April 26, 2015 7:00 am

I don’t remember how they found it; I just know I was 7 when I was diagnosed with scoliosis. It might have been during gym class, that weird day when you didn’t have to play badminton or crawl under a brightly-colored parachute (I really hope kids still get to do that), but we would all stand in a line and a dead-handed nurse would ask you to take off your shirt and then her icy fingers would run up your spine ensuring it was in its proper place. I never had to participate, because I was one of the inflicted. I sat in the corner and probably like…thought about stirrup leggings or drew in a Lisa Frank notebook because it was the ’90s and Trivia Crack didn’t exist yet.

I had two back braces for the duration of the seven years I wore one, covering quite nicely the duration of my awkward years. The first I named Grace the Brace, the second Ace of Brace. I believe both are still in my mom’s attic. I was required to wear them for 22 hours a day, 7 days a week. 22 sweaty, stiff hours a day, the plastic ruining my clothes and restricting my stomach. Although, I did have the daintiest waist ever during those years, no one knew except for me. From age 7 to 11 it was fine, just an extra accessory I could decorate with stickers and I would run around asking people to punch me in the stomach because HAHAHAHAHA JOKE’S ON THEM. I was obnoxious. I was like a little baby robot pre-teen.

It didn’t start to suck until I turned 12 and wanted boys to touch me. That was also when almost too-short shirts from American Eagle and low-rise jeans were in. You know the ones; the graphic tees where if you lifted your arms “casually” a slice of stomach would be exposed. I would pull and pull on my shirts, to cover the slice of robot belly that I would expose. I watched as boys would, in groups, snap girls’ bra straps as they walked down the hall and I felt left out. Looking back, I recognize the oddity of coveting sexually harassment, but there it is. I blamed my lack of a boyfriend on my Transformer body and odd-fitting Old Navy jeans. It was only perfect timing that a month before no longer needing my brace was a perfectly-folded note passed to me during Spanish class from a boy with spiked hair and a last name that was also a breakfast food. “I like you.”

Gym class was another story, because I couldn’t wear my brace during the very strenuous activities like, you know….badminton. I would have to change in the coach’s office away from everyone and then keep the brace locked in her office because for some reason she was worried someone would steal it. Which would have made an excellent deleted scene in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.

When I was finally able to throw Ace of Brace to the back of our dusty attic, I was ready for all life had to offer. You can bet I bought a crop top. My skeleton does still look kind of lumpy and twisted to me, though at times. I covered a sticky-outy rib with a tattoo. When I bend over, you can see a Mississippi River-esque curve of a spine. I have a weirdly small toe, which I am pretty sure is unrelated but still…my bones in general are a bit lackluster, I guess. I look back at this little body, strapping herself into this contraption day after day, and I am proud of her. She blared No Doubt and wrote short stories and, although sartorially challenged, she made the best out of a grownup situation. She took care of her own body when it wasn’t sure how to take care of itself.

It’s good to remember that my bones hold me up. They hold up my Nicki Minaj-ish ass, my strong legs that take me places. My heart and brain that work together and sometimes against each other but they are always working. It took me a while but I am grateful. Grateful for this body, what it can do, how it moves forward through the world. I like in some way that my scoliosis made me a bit shorter, so my boyfriend can text me things like “I want to keep you in my pocket.” My body works, and I’m grateful every time I am able to move past a flaw, or embrace one.

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