Last week a younger friend, 30something, commented in an email that she needed to work on loving her body. In the note she spoke critically of certain body parts, as she has before in conversations. She didn’t like the way this and that looked.
I emailed back a rant. Of the most supportive and loving kind. I wrote:
Every time I hear you critique your body I just want to SHAKE you, I have to say! My gosh, you are stunning! And healthy! In the bloom of life! Your body works great! Fricking enjoy your fabulous body!
OK, cranky bat’s rant over, lol. Just, I really hate the way this culture trains women to despise our bodies when we are so so lovely in all our gorgeous permutations.
And having come through years of being absolutely decrepit, I feel like the important thing—the only thing—is whether or not we feel good in our bodies. If they work for us, if they’re generally free of pain, then hey. Celebrate.
That about sums up my response to women who diss their bodies. Except: After I sent this, I started to notice the slightest bit of hypocrisy.
Yes, I do feel pretty good in my body, and I do appreciate it working. I’ll wear tights to yoga class and not feel self-conscious. I’ll even wear shorts when I haven’t gotten around to shaving my white-and-hairy legs, with their various scars and divots and bruises. (I don’t care about all that. My legs walk great, and pump my bike pedals quite effectively.)
But do I really love this 50-year-old body as unconditionally as I would hope all women would love their bodies? Isn’t my love contingent upon feeling half decent, remaining trim, and staying active?
Back when I was living with chronic illness (the “decrepit” period mentioned mid-rant), I did not love my body much at all. Would I now, if some unexpected health challenge befell me?
Furthermore, why do I sigh at the way my blemish-prone skin is losing its suppleness? Why do I look askance at my newly floppety triceps?
I remember Jan Phillips. last year on a tear at the International Women’s Writing Guild annual conference, grabbing the flesh under her arm and saying, “Don’t waste another minute fussing about THIS.” She wanted us all to focus on getting our creative gifts out there, because “the world needs you.”
I think of Jan whenever I feel a tinge of dislike for my own baby “bat wings.” Jan says don’t worry about it!
Then again, part of loving my body does involve focusing on it—not in a fussy/critical way, but spending time doing what it wants to do. Stretching, walking, dancing, touching, resting, laughing, playing, enjoying good food…
All things that make me feel great. And theoretically make me look great too. Though I stop short of tricep curls and whatnot. So far.
Last night Gaynell ended her yoga class with an invitation, as she often does, to gratitude: “Pause and thank the miracle that is your body. It’s the best and only home that your mind and spirit have.”
That’s the space I want to live in. No matter what, this body is my home.