I’ve been struggling with body image lately. I’m the heaviest I’ve been since I was pregnant–quite disheartening with summer and pool season coming on. But I found this rough draft essay that I wrote a year ago that encouraged me.
The Time Before Knowing
My daughter Sadie looks at her naked body proudly in the mirror. She bends this way and that–hands on hips, now twisting from the back, seeing how her budda belly looks from all angles. She looks closely, curiously, then she pinches her nipples and laughs. She runs through the house joyfully yelling ‘naked baby, naked baby! She is three years old and doesn’t know that she is supposed to hate her body.
I was running at the community pool. I was wearing my crinkly purple swimsuit, my favorite because of its texture and the round neck—you could pull it tighter and tighter and it became a smaller and smaller O and the strings made a V and tied around my neck. I was running unaware—running after Patrick Bush because it was the summuer after 5th grade and running was fun and fast. I was running through the grass, near the fence, not quite catching him, now closer, laughing laughing out of breath. Then he turned and ran after me. I circled around the slide and the diving boards, then he said it. “Wow. You have Thunder Thighs. Maybe you shouldn’t be running around the pool like that that.”
I stood there, hunched and humiliated—awakened to reality like Eve—realizing there was something to be ashamed of. I was no longer an innocent child, running for the fun of it. I was a flabby girl, a fat thing with thighs.
I used to think that every pair of pants that showed the shape of my thighs was off limits for me. I have thought about my thighs once a day (or more) everyday since I remember that day in the purple swimming suit. It’s only been recently that I’ve been able to see myself realistically. I used to see myself as this little head/big bottom disproportionate freak-a-zoid. I wore my hair long in some psychological effort to bring the attention away from the hideousness that was my bottom half. I also developed a shoulder hunch. As if by bending forward a little bit would wrap myself around the offending parts.
I see now that I am a very small person. Small bones and small frame. Yes, I do have some thighs to speak of , and yes, when I run even now there is quite a jiggle-fest happening down there. But I look back at pictures of me when I KNOW I thought I was fat, and I can’t believe it. All those years of size 8. Size Eight. BELOW the national average of women’s weight. I thought I was fat. I volunteered to be the bottom of the pyrmid in cheerleading because I felt large—like I should be holding someone up instead of being on the top. I didn’t deserve the higher spots, I was so monstrously huge.
I looked in the mirror just now and I’m wearing a pair of pants that I would never had allowed in my wardrobe when I was younger. They have a flattering drape and yet still show the outline of my thighs. I look and think—not bad for almost 35. I’m trying to embrace my curves. Allow my body some room to be; to breathe; to be what it is. I want to thank it for serving me well, for walking, running stretching, all of it. For being healthy and able. For putting up with my ingratitude for all these years.
I knew a guy in college from Peru. A girlfriend of mine and I went to his room on open dorm night and somehow the conversation turned to weight (as it usually does when two women are together—no matter how many males are in present company…an aside—womeon can also be counted on to end up talking about hair too, but that’s for another essay. ) I said something about my own self-loathing of my thighs. Carlos said Oh, no—you have the perfect body shape for peru. We love women who have something to shake. Then he started doing some sexy salsa dance that showed me what he was talking about. I have wished since then that I could have been born in Peru, where I would look at my body and say ‘how sexy! How desirable!’ and then I would shake it for all I’m worth.
This damn American body ideal. The smaller the better. The more bones you can have sticking out of your skin, the better. Mary-Kate or Ashley—emaciated, wearing huge clothing but sticking out bones everywhere. Kate Moss. Jennifer Aniston. Curse you Hollywood. Curse you Madonna having given birth to TWO children, but have a personal trainer and the TIME to spend oh, what, 6 hours a day working out???Curse you Elle magazine and Cosmo and Helen Gurley Brown.
I say everyone woman should stand naked in front of their mirror, and have another one handy so they can see their backside. I say look and Love it. Love what God has given it. Then think about getting healthy. Not thin. Not firmer or toned. Healthy. Let’s all get off the self-hating diet wheel. Lets stop offending our bodies. Stop the ungratefulness. Stop the ingratude. Look and Love. Look and SEE. See what an amazing thing God has given us.