Friday, May 4, 2012

A Body of Work

I read this essay called Taking My Body For A Walk. It's about the ownership, disconnect, and acceptance that a young woman has for her body. It's quite good. Very elegant.

Then, in a misguided moment, I scrolled to the bottom and read the comments*. All the comments, at least at that time, were from men who completely missed the boat. They fixated on the issue of physical attractiveness, or the questioning of it, inherent in the piece. Missing the observer/observed quandary completely. The writer certainly questions the attractiveness of her body, mentioning ways it could be improved and wondering if others found it attractive, but that's only one layer of the writing. A couple of the commenters remarked that men don't feel this way about their own bodies, and after my initial reaction (bullshit, if that were true we wouldn't have Nordic Track commercials and pec implants), I reflected on my own feelings about my body.

*Why haven't I learned better? You'd think that the repeated unpleasantness associated with spiking blood pressure would eventually lead to avoidance.

I have heard other women express this same sentiment, but it is ironic that as I get older, and my body's imperfections start becoming more numerous, I am more accepting of my physical self. I am not perfect, but I'm mostly pleased with my body. I like the strength I feel after exercising. I like that I am capable of keeping up, even outperforming people who are much larger than me. I enjoy moving in a coordinated, confident way, especially on the dance floor.

Sure, I can imagine a more perfect physical form. I will never have long, lithe legs. I will never be described as waif-like. I am curvy, though my personality and clothing tastes are better suited for a boy-like frame. I am so pale that I shine like an incandescent lamp; a complexion that would have been much admired in the Victorian era, but I was born into a generation of Jersey Shore tanorexics.

However, I know my body now. I spend less time wishing that it were different, wanting to be like someone else. Sure, when I look in the mirror I think I'd be happier without the extra jiggle around my waistline and inner thighs, but I'm not as critical as I was ten, fifteen years ago...when, ironically, there was no jiggle. I have dropped my insecurities and accept that men find me attractive - and I've been trying to take a bit of pleasure in that as I become more aware of a looming expiration date. Twenty years and a couple kids and I won't be turning nearly as many heads. I hope I will be okay with that when the time comes, but I'd like to enjoy the attention while I can still get it. Bottle it up in my memory so I can  think back fondly upon my youth rather than regret that I didn't take the time to acknowledge it.

But most importantly, love your body for what it can do, not what it can wear.

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