I love my body. I’m not saying that I love the way my body looks in the current fashions, or that I have a perfect shape – suited to the latest sartorial trend – I am not a girl next door version of couture or Hollywood. I’m not saying that others find me attractive or desirable. I’m saying that I love my body; my hands, my feet, my heart, my lungs, my face, my elbows…
I can’t think of a single bit of me that I don’t love. The first decade was mostly filled with questions about why my body was put together this way; “Why fingers?” I asked my father once, I wanted to know what he thought aliens would think of fingers and “Do aliens have fingers?” “When will I break my arm and get a cast that everyone can sign?” was the other one, it felt like a rite of passage and I was the only one missing out. Well into the second decade, I was proud of unbroken bones and never having experienced general anaesthesia. Never boast too loudly – I still haven’t broken a bone.
Between the first and second decade there seemed to be a lot of throwing up which, I didn’t understand at the time, was a result of devouring that which my body did not need. Not listening, not understanding how to listen to what I needed and what I wanted and how it all worked. Eventually I cottoned on and the emesis subsided with my newfound skill of judging when and what was right to eat and drink. Then came the yearly bouts of tonsillitis. I never had them removed. I have clear memories of lying on the sofa, my mother having covered me in a blanket, throat aching and ears ringing, listening to my heart thumping. Too poorly to be loud, listening to every beat. This is also when I recall I first began to fall in love with my feet. I still find no greater comfort, when I am ill or low, than to snuggle under a duvet and rub my feet together.
I can remember all the ‘near death’ experiences; trying to collect a stray tennis ball from amongst the sisal plants and coming eyeball close to having my left eye pierced, swimming in friends pools, my gangly mess of arms and legs learning to swim, the scars on my elbow, now a little further back since I’ve grown, from trying to come to halt on the asphalt. Falling off bikes, normally out of sight and thus avoiding witnesses to my shame, getting my toes stuck under doors, needing stitches and then more stitches as a result of some other extracurricular adventure.
Baking, eating, food. What a wondrous second decade filled with cooking, my mothers, other mothers’, learning to bake – tongue, taste buds, nose and eyes appreciated. Stomach more or less obeyed and brain curious and engaged.
Puberty came and went, and I was fortunate enough to skip! acne. I didn’t feel pretty or ugly, I just felt like me, I didn’t hide and I wasn’t an exhibitionist. The self consciousness never made me hate my body, though I was often confused as to why I didn’t look or couldn’t look like the girls in magazines.
Relationships, work and university forced the search for and appreciation of my brain and that bit we don’t quite understand. Soul. Through stages of fear, a fear of everything, fear of failure, oceans of self-doubt about choices – big and small. Who to love, what to love, can I love myself? Can I trust myself to know what’s right for me? But we made it, my body and I, through the hangovers from hell, when I thought I was dying and through the heartache and disappointment, when I thought I was dying. Further still, through the joys, humiliations, shames and triumphs when I wished I were dead. Here we are, still in good knick.
I concede it hasn’t always been wine and roses. I have straightened my curly hair, wanted the perfect ‘beach body’ and tried a few diets. Truth be told, I’ve always wanted a flat stomach, even back when I had a flat stomach. Still, I am fortunate enough to have understood not only the necessity, but also the value and pleasure of food, much and varied. I don’t recall ever aiming for a skeletal frame, a bigger or smaller bum or narrower hips – despite the occasional insults that have come my way. In fact, I like my squidgy wholesome thighs. I think my thighs should join in the middle and the challenges remain; I’m even learning to love my ever-changing upper arms. Once where I felt insecure about the hue of my skin, the last two decades have been colour-blind inwards and in outlook.
Now in my third decade, I do feel more liberated, not from the constraints of what others perceive me to be or that I should be, but from my twenty-something self that spent so much time fretting and fearing over the future and agonising over the past. Que sera sera always felt like a stupid cliché to me, I cringed at the thought, sound or mention of the song and phrase. Now I am ready to let control of the uncontrollable be out of my control. We’ve been through so much; school (which often felt like a near death experience), conferences, love-ins, funerals, parties, weddings, holidays, the lot. I know we don’t like the cold but can tolerate it when appropriately clothed. We like the heat, but too hot and…
Most importantly, I realise we are actually getting old, I can feel a bit of creak now and then and I’m not so confident that I can push myself as far as I used to, I respect my body a bit more now. I now know it’s not indestructible but I love it more than I did yesterday. I’ve been lucky, a life so far without major trauma, it all works and it doesn’t scrub up too badly either.
I love my body. We’ve been through so much together, and we’re still doing it, hopefully for a little while longer…