Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Sing the Body Positively Charged

     I've been familiar with the concept of body positivity for a long time, since long before I had a vocabulary for it.  The earliest I can remember intentionally trying to help someone feel more comfortable with their physical self, I was around fourteen years old.  I spent a lot of time reading as a teenager, and not just fiction.  I read books on massage, so that I could learn to bring others pleasure.  I learned to pay attention to the physical responses of people, their breathing, their heart rate, the muscles that tense when I touch them a certain way or in a particular place.  I learned to intentionally pour positive energy into my hands, and to appreciate the parts of us that are often overlooked.

     I noticed that people would often say things like "The female body is beautiful, but the male body is all angles and function." And I started to wonder whether these people had ever really seen the male body the way I had, because it was sure as hell amazing and wondrous and beautiful to me.  I read things like I Sing the Body Electric, and said "Yes."

     So many of us are given shame for our bodies; shame that we even have bodies, let alone shame for how we use them, shame for our enjoyment of them, shame for talking frankly about them, shame for finding the bodies of others interesting.  Shame for the parts we were born with, shame for the way our ancestry bears out in us, shame for the blemishes we acquire through living, shame for the things that make us interesting and unique and worthy of appreciation.  I said "No." to that shame, and made a point of helping those I was intimate with learn to say "No." to it, as well.

     Except, of course, when it came to myself.

     I matured physically very early.  I had my first bra (a B cup, no less) in the third grade.  I had hips and breasts and a stereotypically desirable hourglass figure... at nine years old.  This is *not* a good thing for someone who is already starting life with self-esteem issues.  I didn't know that I looked more like a woman than a girl, I just knew that I was too big.  That idea, that I was "too big" carried through the majority of my teen years.  I looked at the other girls, who were just developing at fourteen and fifteen, and wished that I could have slender thighs like them, and that my clothes would actually fit, they way theirs did.  I always felt hideous, even while fitting pretty closely the societal idea of womanly perfection.

     Of course, it never helped that clothes are not actually made for that supposedly perfect shape.  So all I knew was that I was thicker in most places than the other girls my age, my shirts pulled too tight in various places, and I had to wear men's jeans, because women's pants went too high up for my short waist.  I found much relief when I discovered thrift store shopping.  Rather than be limited to what current trends were appealing to the slender set at the time, I found satiny camisoles and velvet jackets, button-up blouses which pulled across the chest in delicious ways, pants with wider legs, which helped me look less top-heavy... I finally started to realize that my shape wasn't all bad.

     I never had a problem attracting the boys... and a few girls.  It never occurred to me that my womanly shape might be a part of that, until I was seventeen and was told as much.  Previously, and a couple of times since, I've gotten remarks about how my breasts should be perkier, or the stretchmarks on my hips (and now belly) must mean that I've been pregnant.  My butt should be rounder, my thighs (which were large even when I was slender) should be smaller, my big toes shouldn't have hair on them.  My thumbs shouldn't be so stubby, my belly (again, even when I was slender) shouldn't jiggle, I should wear more makeup, learn how to walk in heels, wear more dresses, have longer (or shorter, depending on who is judging me) hair, spend more time styling it, and paint my fingernails.

     I've spent a *lot* of time believing those things to one extent or another, even while I knew those opinions weren't worth a damn, and I didn't want to do things like wear heels, anyway.  I spent a lot of time hating my body, even while I extolled the virtues of body positivity.  I still do, really.  Mostly, though, I hate they way it's a betraying bastard at this point.  Gluten intolerance, the inability to lose weight without starvation and unhappiness, acne, joint pains, now a mystery rash which is spreading... Cluster headaches, chemical sensitivity, a nose that works too well.

     I don't exactly like how large I am now.  I don't like it at all, in fact, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I won't *really* be able to change that.  The last time I lost any appreciable mass, I was consuming around 600 calories a day, and getting plenty of exercise.  I was unhappy, I was manic, I slept a lot... but hey, that image in the mirror is all that counts, right? Um, no.  As I am now, I am considered very overweight by most, but my blood pressure and cholesterol are good, I eat mostly real food as opposed to processed crap, and I'm happy.  I have a physical job which I love and am capable of doing.  I'm about as healthy as I'll ever be, and starving myself to lose weight would bring no benefit to me... not to mention that whatever I lost would come back as soon as I stopped starving myself.

     I've never minded extremely thin men, but I've long been disgusted by extremely thin women.  I think that has to do more with my own self-hate than anything... which I suppose should be pretty obvious.  While mega-skinny might be something I'm told to strive for, and something I could likely NEVER obtain, that's not really anyone's fault, is it? And the attitude that thin=healthy=beautiful, and everything else is bad/wrong/unattractive is *all* of us.  We all work together to perpetuate and allow this crap.  Every time someone makes a crack about how some fat person must be lazy and eat at McDonald's every day, and I say nothing, I am allowing these ideas to continue.  And the same goes for when someone makes a comment about how the skinny girl must be anorexic.

     We all have bodies.  Those bodies look and feel different.  All of those bodies are amazing things.

     The time comes when we have to ask ourselves if we'd really rather look like someone else, anyway.  I know that at this point, my body has become a part of my personality.  My squishiness is an outward symbol of my inner squishiness.  My large, soft breasts are great for comforting others and helping them feel safe and secure and loved.  (Our brains are, after all, hardwired to enjoy that sort of thing.)  I can clap a hand on my belly and get a great percussive sound... which, yes, I do enjoy doing.  This body means that most people who find me attractive will do so on the basis of my personality first. These hands, with the stubby fingers and all, have helped many people feel better about themselves.  My feet have carried me many places I've been glad to go... and away from the places I've been glad to leave.  These arms, these eyes, this brain, this torso, and these legs, all work together to complete the work which nourishes my soul. 

     The theoretical skinny girl would have her own list of benefits and challenges that come with her own body.  We *all* have those lists.  And still, every one of our bodies is worth celebrating.

     I sing the body positively charged.  Hairlines and eyebrows and hipbones and neck hollows, and that spot behind the ear, and the curl where nose meets cheek, foot arches and breastbones and elbows and ankles and knees, the insides of the wrists, and that place where trunk meets legs... pupils and irises and smile lines and lip curves, the shape of the calf muscle or the side of the neck.  The way you move when you are not conscious of yourself, only your action.  The way you move when hard at work.  The way all of your muscles and sinews and joints and bones function together to allow you to move.  The synapses which tell your lungs and heart to keep moving, so that I may know you, and you me.  The electrical impulses which form your thoughts and words and ideas and hopes and dreams.  I love them all.  I sing the body positively charged.

2 comments:

  1. I was going to comment on the part about "Male bodies != Beauty" but then I'd be contradicting my own beliefs of the beauty of functionality. To me there is something beautiful about a 30ish year-old farm truck that is all blocky, no longer is a distinguishable color, and has a 0-60 time measured in days, but could get run over by a freight train and still do the job just fine. :)

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  2. Yeah... In my opinion, in the battle of Form versus Function, Function always wins. Ideally, of course, you have both, but that's not always an option.

    I like looking at bridges and watching construction equipment; of course I'm going to like the male body. I think my ability to see both the forest and the single leaf on a single branch of a single tree also helps. There are all sorts of curves and lines which are interesting... I'll show you sometime.

    Excellent comment, though.

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