Diet Musings #4: Loving My Body

10 Jul

I was always the fat one in my family. Some days this hurt, other days it was simply a fact. I’m still one of the chubbiest out of the 25 girls of my generation. I have crop-picking, rice-paddy digging peasant legs. My tummy is round and squishy. I have no angles, jutting bones, or defined muscles. A friend once described my body shape as a Pepsi can.

But my body is strong, solid, and healthy. I rarely get sick. I can run 13 miles in 2 hours. My partner says he loves how I look. It took me over 30 years, but I’ve decided that I would never trade my body for someone else’s. And I’ve decided to be at peace with it most days (diet notwithstanding).

I’ve struggled talking with others about my body image. I’m not a big girl, so while I love Marilyn Wann , I don’t exactly identify. I don’t like talking about it with those who are naturally thin. I don’t want to talk about it with activists who expound on patriarchy, advertising and the politics of consumption and inadequacy, or the corporate diet and food industry. Not that I’m not interested in these things – I majored in Women’s Studies after all – but sometimes I just want someone to empathize when I say, “I don’t like how I look”. I once shyly brought it up to this fierce and smart woman I worked with who I felt had a body type similar to mine.

She sweetly slipped this poem into my mailbox. It was over ten years ago, but I’ve held onto it.

Body-N-Soul by Asha Bandele

I didn’t mean for my towel to drop or to be standing nude in front of the
full length mirror the other morning…but there we were, trapped,
the three of us: me, the mirror, and my naked body.

I’ve avoided being nude in front of myself for years…I have hated my
body for nearly as long as I’ve had one
I’ve been a million different sizes in my life, but never quite the right size…
my skin was never quite the right shade….
always too light or too dark depending upon
who I was with.

it’s not as though I don’t know better…
I’m embarrassed to know as many theories as I do
and still be in struggle.

I know that the American aesthetic is perverse, anti-woman
and bounded by a solely western sense of beauty…I know
that even Americans did not demand this image of prepubescent fragility
in women until well into this century…I know the
wideness of my hips makes biological sense…
and I know a million other feminist theories and truths….
I have books filled with highlighted paragraphs to prove that I have studied
and
understand these self-affirming things…but knowing that doesn’t change
the way I’ve felt for at least the last 15 years.

I am ashamed to say that I hate my body
but it has been my enemy for so long now
& I know somewhere that the real enemy has been the various reactions
that my body has created in other people who have their own
issues biases agendas and afflictions
but it’s easier to attack my 5’6″, lightskinned, 142 pound frame…
I have no power over the men who pay me/my body attention
I never wanted
or dispelled affections I desperately needed
depending upon my state of fatness or thinness…

but this body is mine, I can
stairmaster,
diet, jog, powerwalk and starve into submission.

I don’t want to live this way.

I want to see the value of my body in the creative framework of what it
does despite its conformity or non-conformity to the western tradition
I want to value the body i have which has always been able to hold and
to love
to dance, walk, write poems, clean houses, massage my sister, rise every
morning and
try try try
to contribute to another life.
which like mine,
is struggling for something we hesitantly call
peace.

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