I imagined Emma processing my reaction. If the roles were reversed, she wouldn’t have flinched at having an audience. I worried I had exposed the insecurity and body shame I work hard to protect her from. That she is likely already fully aware of.
Once the strangers passed, Emma shuffled ahead to play phtographer. When she finished, I tucked my phone away and enjoyed our warm, pathy walk. I took pleasure in watching Sloane and Emma trample about in sunshine interrupted by the shadow of trees.
At home, I tapped open my photos. Emma had taken over 40 pictures. What a goof, I thought. I scrolled, looking for something share-worthy.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. All wrong.
The protruding-bellied, squishy-kneed, big-armed woman was not the cute, fresh, young one I had been with all day.
This is how the world sees me.
I wanted to cry. Instead, I chose one of the ten photos in focus and posted it to instagram with the caption, “Hi, world. Here I am. No hiding. Just love and celebrating. #bodyimage”
Ironically enough, I had just spent half an hour on Facebook trying to convince a woman—a stranger—to stop referring to herself as hideous. I said if we hope to create a space for our daughters to easily celebrate self, we must think and talk about beauty differently. It starts with us. Right now.
“Think Elephant Man.” She responded.
“The Elephant Man deserved to feel great about his body. It’s the only one he had.” I said.
And then I saw the pictures Emma took and felt hideous. Why is this is so hard? So hard to see who I am and to love me as is?
After the dog park (before the picture post to Instagram), Emma and I stopped at the pet store to get Sloane a water bottle. As we left the store, we saw a Vizsla-owning couple Steve and I had met weeks before. “Hey! Too bad we didn’t have Charlie with us. He and Sloane could have a play.” The man said, his beautiful, slender companion smiling at us.
And do you know what I thought to myself? I thought, “I’m chubby and uncute. It’s lucky you talk to me. Surprising.”
I mean, it wasn’t that exact sentence, but it’s the sentiment of what washed over me. I believe on a cellular level that I am less valuable, less interesting, less worthy of human connection because of the shape of my body. How do you weed out your cells?
I promote fat-acceptace and HAES. I am careful to talk about myself in ways that don’t make other people uncomfortable and don’t leave me feeling empty. But this self-contempt is a fascist lion.
I haven’t exercised for about two years. I’d love to get fit, but I haven’t done a single thing about it. In the meantime, I’ve made an effort to love the shit out of me. To let it be okay that this is what I look like—because this is what I look like.
I sometimes force my naked body over to the mirror. I run my hands over my belly and studdy my shapeless arms and pillowy legs. I say loving things and tell myself it’s okay. It’s okay that you look like this. You’re beautiful and no less worthy of anything good. You deserve to take up space. Don’t shrink. Don’t hide. Stay with me. I love you.
Loving my body and remapping my internal dialogue is like building a house of cards on a wobbly table in the wind. I thoughtfully, with focus (you are enough) and precision (you are worthy), carefully (you are loving) and slowly (you are loved) secure (you are loveable) each card in its place.
An old synapse fires and wakes the rest of the nasties and suddenly I’m outnumbered. My small voice of love gets lost in what is so familair it feels like Truth.
You are hideous.
I gather in close the scattered cards and start again. This time a little more discouraged, a little more tired, a little more unsure it’s worth the effort.
And this isn’t just about me anymore. I have another life I’m responsible for. She’s finding her way in the same world that taught me my value is determined by the shape of my body. And I’m terrified I wont be able to carve out something different for her.
This morning I watched a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline). Ten minutes into his speech he talks about art.
“Make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days, too. Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. The urge, starting out, is to copy, and that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.”
“So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”
I thought of the picture. Of my body. This body is my art. The art I have to offer that no one else does.
I can carry it with shame and the belief that it is not enough—that I am not enough—or I can fight to be thankful. Thankful I have a body, for what it does and how it moves me through the world. I can celebrate it and be kind to it.
I can build my house of cards on the wobbly table in the wind. And each time that wind comes I can gather in the cards and build it again and again and again.
Here I am. No hiding. Just love and celebrating.
For more fun, like my Facebook page. It’s like a slumber party with less pillows.