The problem with Justin is that even though he looks hard, buzz-cut and muscled abs, that baby pout of potential harm, he is still soft. Because he wants to be.

Britney doesn't want to be.

Because Justin can do as many sit-ups as he wants to, as many push-ups as he has to. He can watch Fight Club and ride his fuckin' motorcycle and wear his leather, and look hard. Act hard. Pose for magazines like there is nothing inside of him but muscle and blood, but there is. There is. Justin will always be the soft one, the little boy who cried in his mother's arms and the one who pours his soul into his music, his art, his fans. Gives everything to everyone and never runs dry.

And this is how Britney is different. Britney does crunches, hundreds and hundreds of crunches until she can feel the nerve endings burned out of her like calories. Britney puts on pretty skirts with soft folds, all soft pinks and muted whites, virgin's colors, but beneath her legs are rock-hard, hard enough to kick holes in walls, to cause damage to anyone who fucks with her.

She bares her hard stomach to show them, to flaunt her lack of feminine softness in their faces, even if they see it as sex and modern beauty. Even if they take it wrong. Even if they try to take, even when she isn't giving.

Muscle is in, now, instead of curves. A woman isn't supposed to look like a woman anymore, she is supposed to look like iron, shaped into girl-flesh. Long and slim, muscles firm beneath soft skin, soft and hard all at once--just hard enough to be firm, tight enough for men to wrap their hands around, too soft to really hurt anyone.

Britney used to have a tiny soft indent for a stomach, breasts that were more than muscle pushed into a wonderbra. She looks back at those pictures now and strokes the soft curves of her thighs, remembering when people used to hug her and smile. Now they hug her and pull back, pretending to smile. Trying not to grimace at the hardness, the lack of give, because Britney's body always looks more welcoming than she truly is.

Britney looks soft, but she is hard, hard like muscle and scar tissue. Justin is the opposite: he looks like he is carved from marble, but when she touches him, all she feels is exposed nerves, the soft flesh inside his elbows, his uncalloused fingers. Justin has muscle but no scars on that perfect body. His hardness can be penetrated, hurt, made to give. And someday, somebody will make him give.

Britney thinks that she has given so much already, there is nothing left to take.


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