c/w: body image
I am at my most content when I slip my feet into my snakeskin, shimmying so that its cold, hard scales wrap around my waist and snuggly fit over my shoulders and head. It’s the feeling of change I crave, one moment a human woman, body curving and protruding all the wrong ways and the next, a cobra, sinuous and lengthy, with graceful, tapered lines.
“I wish you wouldn’t look at the closet so often. I know what you want to do,” my husband sulks.
I run a hand over my stomach, gaze drifting to the mirror.
“Why would you want to be legless and cold-blooded?” Emil continues. “And eat small animals live? Who wants that?”
I bristle. He does not know the half of it. I am resplendent as a cobra, lovely with my hood and stretched, cylindrical form. All the other snakes say so.
I say as much to my husband.
“You’re resplendent as a woman too!” he sputters.
“It doesn’t count coming from you,” I mutter. “You’re married to me.”
His mouth twists downwards. “And that makes a difference?”
“It—it’s just that you have to say things like that,” I try to explain to him kindly.
I’m not sure if I should add that it’s far easier to put on my snake skin than emulate what women on red carpets do to look the way they do—namely, spend loads of money.
“You want to be thin,” my friend Layla once summarized, “but curvy at the same time.”
I had sighed in response.
“There’s an online lifestyle regimen I’m following for that,” she added brightly.
She had passed her phone to me. The thumbnail of the video featured a famous actress with an exaggerated hourglass shape, augmented breasts, full butt and all.
I glanced over Layla’s slender physique. “That’s what this regimen is going to make you look like?”
She threw up her hands. “Might as well try!”
“But,” I protested, “you’re already so pretty.”
She smiled at that. “You’re my best friend,” she said, patting me on the hand. “You have to tell me things like that.”
I had scoffed, unable to quite smother the prickling frustration erupting in my throat. That very night, I put on my snakeskin and slithered outside, basking in the oohs and aahs of the other snakes. To them, I was the actress with the hourglass figure.
I turn to my husband. “I won’t put the skin on today.”
He exhales in relief.
The next evening, Layla comes over for dinner, effortlessly elegant as always with her dark, shining hair and dancer’s build.
“How’s the regimen so far?” I casually ask.
She darts a glance to the living room, where our husbands are bonding over Emil’s vinyl collection. She exhales, looking miserable.
“These kinds of things take time,” I say awkwardly.
Layla shrugs offhandedly, attempting to be casual. “We both knew it was a long shot.”
I observe her slumped shoulders for a moment. “Come with me.”
She allows me to lead her to the bedroom, where I rummage through the depths of my closet to extract a shoebox.
“Is that—” she breathes.
I extract my snakeskin, gossamer-thin and fragile as an autumn leaf.
She stares at it hesitantly. “And this has helped you.”
“It has. Go on,” I urge.
She accepts the skin with fumbling fingers and daintily positions her feet within its opening. She pauses, hesitant.
“This seems crazy.”
“It’s cheaper than implants,” I shrug.
She chuckles. “Will the snake version of me look the same as you?”
“I doubt it,” I reply.
“Then how will we know that I’ll actually be considered…” she trails off.
“Beautiful?” I supply. My mouth quirks. “The other snakes are mad for cobras. Something about that hood shape that all of them want and only a few of them can have.”
Her smile fades. She gives her head a little shake but nonetheless begins to roll up the scales, fingers stiff and clumsy.
Mina is an Indian-American writer and technical product manager. Her non-work hours consist of dreaming up storylines, learning new dance styles, and trying not to kill her plants.