This game is getting tough. It’s not easy on the spine, for one.  I walk through rooms at work, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, abdomen curved in, don’t look at me, don’t look at me, don’t you dare look at my body.

A well-calculated shift of posture – hips back, chest forward – when talking to a colleague at their desk, leaning just enough so my clothes don’t catch on suspicious curves. But it’s not just about alterations in posture and a careful choice of clothing – props are becoming key. I carry folders in front of me into meetings, I sit so chair and desk completely shield my lower half. I pick strategic positions behind computer monitors and office furniture. I carry my cafeteria lunch tray at just the right height.

Soon, though, I doubt this will be enough. I’ll need more than cloth armour and manila folder shields. I’ll need distraction, misdirection to keep people’s gaze from going to my belly. I’m thinking of taking on a partner in crime, someone to walk with me and draw attention. Luckily D and I work together – he could accompany me on coffee runs, wearing a clown nose, a funny hat. He could walk carrying a pineapple on a platter, or maybe glass bowl full of goldfish. Maybe some sparklers. Then, nobody would be looking at me.

In a few weeks, I’ll (hopefully) be bigger, and the weather will likely be warmer…. But so far, no one I know is the wiser. Except the muscles in my back, that is. They’ve started an ongoing protest.

It feels like adolescence all over again, when I was so uneasy and embarrassed by my growing breasts, the attention they inspired completely unwanted. Not knowing how to respond to the glances, the comments. Wishing they would just see me again. The world suddenly divided between girls and boys, women and men. In many ways, it’s a lot like that.

Different players, a different divide. The scorch-marked and the stretch-marked. The innocent and the grief-stricken.