Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ode to a body?


I'm always a bit hesitant to visit my hometown, for a myriad of reasons. It reminds me so much of the days when I was "blossoming into adulthood," or all the ways I was socialized to think in ways that now, looking back, were probably not great for my psyche. I do have a lot of great memories from living in GV-- going color guard competitions, bake sales, days at the river-- but I'm also keenly aware of the not-so-great memories. One of the biggest issues that I still deal with from a day-to-day basis is something I learned in GV: body hate. And I'd like to think of myself as a bit more "enlightened" with my (almost) degree in Sociology and my feminist leanings and bad-ass attitude, and I'd like to imagine myself as a body activist, a person who's like "What, I'm fat AND black AND beautiful, so suck on that!"

I'd really like to be that person, but I'm not.



I spent all four years of high school hating my body, and actively trying to destroy it.  I wanted so badly to be like a phoenix, to explode into a fiery ball, my body in pieces, and walk out of the ash newly made. I wanted so badly to be different than I was, and I punished myself for it. The emotional and physical scars from that time in my life still haunt me. Even as a young adult now, after therapy and medication and new experiences, I struggle. My relationship with my body is that of ambivalence. Most of the time I try to pretend that it isn't even there-- maybe if I can ignore my body's natural rhythms and quirks, if I pretend I don't notice the space it takes up, its clumsiness, it's odd and unseemly shape, then it's not real. I don't have to hate it, because how can you hate something that doesn't exist? Sometimes, I attempt to love it-- because fat is beautiful, and I am beautiful, and I don't need to change for society. It reminds me of a song by Regina Spektor called "Folding Chair," when she sings: I've got a perfect body/but sometimes I forget/I've got a perfect body/Cuz my eyelashes catch my sweat." It's a reminder that my body is amazing because it does so much, without me asking, without me having to think about it. And if I really want my body to change, I need to treat it like a temple.  I need to love it and take care of it. It may not be the best, but it's the only one I've got.

I try so hard to take care of my body in these moments, in these days, weeks, months when I realize that my body is part of me, and that it is important. I try so hard to be good to it, and to love it, and to repent for how I've treated it.

And then there are the days when absolutely despise my body, days when I want to jump out of my skin and let my body burn. Days when I feel that my body has failed me. I wonder if anyone knows how that feels, to actually think that your body-- which, for better or worse, has gotten you this far in life, to this moment, breath after breath-- that is has failed you. I hate my body for giving in to food, for loving it so much-- I hate my body for not being able to withstand the temptation. I hate my body for being fat in the first place, for not naturally being thin, and for making it so god-damned hard to try and be thin. I hate my body for not responding to my efforts, for changing not one little bit when I go to the gym and swear off sugar and make myself feel crazy over sandwiches and casseroles and salads, a fact that makes me think, well there's no real use in trying, is there? On some days, I feel an intense shame just being outside where I can be seen. I wonder, are people staring at me, and if so, are they thinking that my body is unacceptable? When my friends see me, do they pity me? When my family looks at me, are they disappointed by my size? Do they mourn a skinnier me that never was?

I am ambivalent about my body because I want so badly to love it as it is, and yet I loathe it for what it is. I desperately want it to be everything it's not-- and I hate myself for that. I'm ashamed of my body, and I'm ashamed that I don't love my body. It turns my body into a battleground, in which I am both attempting to save and destroy it-- this body, which without my asking, is moving every second of every day to keep me alive, so that I might find new ways to hurt it, starve it, bloat it, manipulate it, and maybe sometimes love it.

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