I’ve been thinking about my body a lot lately. My body has changed more drastically over the past year than it ever has since puberty. It’s left me with a lot of mixed feelings. So this is a post about my relationship with my body. I’m sure you have a complicated relationship with your body too. I encourage you to share it, because nothing ever makes me feel more confident and more sure than realizing others have lived a shared experience with me. I hope you feel the same way.
I’ve spent a long time being in love with my body, which makes me a bit of an anomaly. I was lucky, because everywhere I looked, magazines, movies, tv, there were bodies that looked just like mine. That’s not to say it was easy to love my body, but that I was lucky. Two separate things. I had no great, radical leap to make to body-love, just the wherewithal to deal with my body on my own terms. It takes a defiant attitude to consciously decide to love your body; there are so many people around us who’d really rather we not. It takes vigilance to remind ourselves how perfect we are. In the face of what seems like certain defeat against multi-billion dollar industries, and everyone we know who has been swayed to agree with them, it’s possible to fight, to look at our bodies and discover something perfect.
Start out perfect and don’t change a thing. Always accentuate your best features by pointing at them. And conceal your flaws by sucker punching anyone who has the audacity to mention them. – Miss Piggy
I’ve always loved what my body can do for me. When I was young, I was a synchronized swimmer and I loved that my body could do that. I loved that it could swim, run, jump, climb, bike, do whatever I wanted it to do and wouldn’t give up on me. I used to love pushing myself in workouts until I was sweating in the water, which is a strange sensation. I’ve never really thought about it, but doing synchronized swimming, practicing six days a week, it encouraged such a defined sense of my body. I guess that’s partially why I was able to make successful self-portraits: I always had a keen awareness of my body, it’s stamina, it’s position, it’s endurance, it’s power, it’s flexibility. My body worked for me.
When I was 18, I realized that my body was a desirous body; now not only did it work for me, but it also worked for others. When I realized people wanted me, I never questioned it or dismissed their want as impossible. I knew that I was white, thin, tall, and cissexual–all very desirous qualities in our society. Though I knew that, I didn’t really know until later the realities of people who do not have that body in my society. Someone needed to tell me, and I’m glad they did. I like to pretend that I would’ve realized it at some point, but I’m glad that the internet didn’t let it come to that and called me on this privilege so I could acknowledge it and learn about realities outside my own existence. When I was 20 I basically only thought about myself, and my own problems and dramas and tragedies. Better people were probably thinking about other things, but I wasn’t. I was trying not to hurt myself or anyone else in the process. During this time I either used my body to get things I wanted and shouldn’t have had, or spent time trying to destroy my body. My depression and self-harming were the worst around this time. It felt like my body was fighting me and I was continually fighting back. I was cutting often. Lying in the bath all day. My joints hurt. My muscles hurt. I was tense and on edge all the time. My body felt like it wasn’t mine, like it had abandoned me and left in its place some weaker, deficient model. But I kept pushing it to stay out longer, to sleep with more people, to drink faster, to drink more, to dance harder, to not fall apart for a little while more. It was all common things that twisted this relationship I had with my body that was once so perfect: school, professors, mental health, the subtle trauma of avoiding truth. These things happen to everyone and many people react the way I did. But I missed my body. I missed the way it would respond to me, and others.
Over time, my body was returned to me. Through stability and routine my body became what I remembered, long and lean and tight. When I see myself in my mind, I see the words “writhe” and “lithe” written along my body. These are words that I became used to associating with my body. My body now was comfortable, controlling, and powerful. It took no prisoners, but it took everyone. Married men, single women, co-workers, professors, younger or older, far away or close. My body was easy and I loved it that way. Giving myself to people who didn’t deserve it but who needed it, or just wanted it. Moving slow in flattering lights, parting lips to give better access. Quietly, and at times not so quietly, flaunting my favourite asset, my easiest strength, my ticket to basically anywhere. My body could be anyone’s but I never loved anyone more than I loved myself. (That only became a problem when my body refused to love the same people I did.)
Sometimes I would forget that there were other parts of me that deserved love too. I often forgot that I was smart, or that people would ever recognize that. My body is often an all-encompassing entity that takes over all other facets of my self. I think that may be my defense mechanism, when I’m afraid or unsure, out comes my body, front and centre. That I understand and control: my body and anything that comes with it. Speaking with my body always came easier to me than speaking with my voice. I was confident in my body, but rarely my ideas. I still work to find some sort of balance where every part of me hovers around the same level of greatness, and, more importantly, receives the same amount of gratitude from my self.
My body looked the same for almost 10 years, but recently, over the past year it’s changed. Today it’s soft, and slopes at steeper angles. This new body doesn’t writhe, and isn’t lithe. It commands, and is more present. To ride my body now would be more thrilling, coasting down curved inclines and climbing higher mounds of flesh. To feel me now would be to hold onto the parts of me that call to you, and get a good grip. It would be pushing into a body that rises up to meet you and then takes you down to warm, yielding depths.
But now my body is weak. I try not to let it bother me, but it does. I walk up three flights of stairs and feel tired. I can’t push myself the way I used to; carrying groceries has become difficult, and the prospect of having to move furniture (a habit I usually enjoy) seems unlikely. I want these curves to stay but I want my body to work for me again. To be strong and flexible, but still soft and inviting. So I’ve started doing things to work toward that, like never taking the TTC (which is actually a really relaxing lifestyle choice), forcing myself to leave the house every day, drinking eight glasses of water a day, I have a 20 minute work-out routine I do every day, and a 30-minute stretching routine. But honestly, I’m saying all this and just started two days ago. I’m a bit of a quitter so who knows how long it will last. I want my body to feel like it can kick someone’s ass again though. And still be this luscious thing that’s meant to be seen naked in morning light, you know?
My body is perfect and always has been. I weigh 155 pounds. I am 5’8″. My measurements are 37-29-37. It is not easy to love our bodies. It becomes easier when we see others with similar bodies, and similar characteristics we always referred to as our flaws. Actively seek out others with bodies that reflect yours. Surround yourself with people embracing their bodies, not hiding/transforming them for a product’s benefit. Find people loving their bodies, expressing their love of those bodies, and encouraging you to do the same. These are the people we need more of. Don’t let anyone tell you you need to be anything more (or less) than what you already are. Your body is perfect and always has been.
Self-portrait from July 2012
Good places to start learning ways to love your body: