Monday, September 3, 2018

A Love Letter to My Body

I’m turning 33 this week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my body. It’s not quite as healthy as I’d like it to be—going up stairs makes me a little short of breath, and I can’t quite lift things or climb things as easily. But I’m working on it. And I sometimes catch glimpses of my body in videos or pictures. And sometimes it looks different from how it feels. The curves are stronger, the rib cage wider, the neck shorter. Sometimes the number on the scale is higher than I realized. But still, I love this body.

I love my thighs, the way they brush against one another when I walk. The curve of my backside, the strength of it. I love the way the muscles of my calves shape themselves around my bones.

I love the proportions of my hands. I love the green of my eyes. I love the shape of my feet when I point them and then flex my toes. I love the curve of my breasts, the fullness of my lips, the hair between my legs, the arch of my eyebrows. I love the freckles and moles that cover my skin.

I love how my legs carry me from place to place, how I can make myself a few inches taller by standing on my tiptoes. I love that my hands can type and paint and touch. My throat can make music and words and laughter.

I love that my guts digest my food, and my lungs breathe. And there are trillions—TRILLIONS—of connections in my brain, and they’re shifting and growing and changing every single second I’m alive. I love that I can feel someone’s lips on my neck and their hands on my waist, and I love how my blood rushes in those moments.

I work in an industry that puts a lot of emphasis on appearance. Which makes sense in some ways—sometimes roles simply demand a certain “look.” But it’s easy to get caught up in how narrow those “look” expectations can be. And it’s even easier to get our value tangled up in how we look.

And I’m calling bullshit.

Bodies are bodies. They are lumpy and veiny and flabby and freckled and scarred and zitty and fat and skinny and strong and weak and broken and full. But my body is not here just for other people to look at. It’s here so that I can walk up mountains and swim in lakes and paint and write and sing.

I know that the reality is that we’ve always been obsessed with appearance, and a lot of people still are. That’s the world that we live in.

But I guess I uh…don’t want to live in it. So I don’t.

I rarely weigh myself. I intentionally don’t compliment people if and when they lose weight. (This is also because these compliments are extremely complicated and sometimes painful for those with eating disorders.) When little children ask me about the mole on my throat, or above my lip, I explain to them that my moles are part of what make me beautiful. Everyone has things that make them beautiful. Some people have lovely hands, or stunning eyes, or freckles, or shapely feet.

If and when I have children of my own someday, I will never comment on weight—mine, theirs, strangers’—as if it has anything to do with their value. As if weight has to do with character, as if it’s a moral issue. I will always talk about my body in terms of the things I like about its appearance, or in terms of things I like that it can do. Or else just factually. I don’t want my children to learn to dislike their bodies, or to judge them harshly.

If your body doesn’t meet your society’s idea of “beauty,” it’s not a moral failing. It doesn’t affect your inherent value. And if your body DOES meet your society’s idea of “beauty,” it just means that you won a genetic lottery. Either way, you’ll turn 40, then 50, then 60, and eventually your body won’t look like it did, or do the things that it did. You could get sick or get into an accident, and suddenly you won’t look the way you used to, or be able to do the things you used to.

So eat well. Stretch. Exercise. Use sunscreen. But do those things because you love your body, not because you hate it.

photo via Bruce Aoki
(Yes, that's me and also yes, I am naked in this picture.) 

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