Sunday, 30 March 2008

the story of a body

When I was fourteen years old, a friend of mine, after a class swimming trip, reported back to me a conversation she'd had with one of the boys in our class (a boy, incidentally, that I would, a couple of years later, have a huge crush on).

She was commenting on the body of one of the girls in the class, saying she thought this girl had a great body.

"Oh no," said the boy. "No, if I had to choose, it would be [Maddie]. She's perfect."

You would think this would inspire a person to try to maintain her figure exactly was then, even if it was a size 14 with DD cup breasts.

But my eating and my relationship with my body were already fucked up, alas. I always wondered why no one ever picked on me for being fat - it turns out, it was because I wasn't, except in the eyes of my well-meaning and otherwise lovely parents, and I've no idea what their problem was, unless it was the boobs. And the hips. I was always a curvy girl.

I'm not extolling my past physical "perfections" here because I'm trying to disassociate myself with my present fatness. I am fat. I'm pretty much exactly as fat as Miss Perfect thought she was.

I guess it's just that in reassessing and reforming my relationship with my body now, I'm also thinking a lot about my past relationship with it. It says a lot that a third party could tell me that a boy I liked a lot thought I was perfect, and it changed nothing about how I felt about myself. You'd think it would, wouldn't you? It reminds me of this ad from Dove.

To be honest, it still doesn't change how I feel. My husband tells me I'm gorgeous all the time - "magnificent" on more than one occasion - and although I've learned not to argue, in my head, I call him an idiot.

Now, I'm fixating on my looks at the moment, which is problematic in itself because there's a lot more to any person than the body that holds them. But there's a disjunction, you see, a total inability to see what I really look like or to see my SELF as represented by thsi body. And love has always seemed out of the question.

But since we're bound together tell death do us part, my body and me, it seems to me that there can't be a healthy body when living with a mind which despises it, or a healthy mind when living in a body it sees as a prison. As much as I've learned to feel this way, I am not a separate entity to my flesh, and not only because my relationship with it has defined a significant part of my psychology.

This is all me, whether it's the hands racing across the keyboard, the legs the laptop is resting on, the breasts being slightly displaced by the arms reaching for the keys, and the mind guiding the fingers. I can't separate me from my body.

And it tells you my story. Oh, a lot of people won't read the story it tells. They'll glance, assume they know what it's about, decide they don't want to read it and move on, never knowing that not all fat bodies, or thin bodies, tell you the same story.

But here is the story mine tells:

Once, I was perfect, but I've spent so many years despising myself that now, when you look at me, you will see a mass of failure, of imperfections you may believe I should hide. But this body is the story of my struggle, and I am not ashamed of the journey I have taken. It has taught me to think, and to have compassion. It has taught me not to assume that I understand the story I'm looking at.

Parts of this story are very unhappy. For far too long, I've treated my body like an abusive spouse, pounding away at it like it was dirt, instead of my most intimate partner, my best friend, the companion of my life. If we really were separate entities, I'd tell my body to leave me. I'd find it a refuge where people would be nice to it, say kind things, and not make it feel worthless.

But since that can't be done, we need a new relationship, and it starts with this: I'm sorry, body. I'm sorry that I've hurt you for so long in so many ways. I'm really going to try to treat you the way you deserve to be treated. I'm going to learn to love you beacuse you are my story, because you are me, and because if you're going to spend your life with someone, you really should love them, and love them hard.

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