(Had to write this fast and post immediately, for, otherwise, it would never have been written…)
You’ve always been so good to me. I see that now.
You gave me legs that ran fast in grade school track, and hips that could ride a horse, wrists that flicked basketballs into nets, bare feet that climbed the tallest trees in our neighbourhood.
It’s you who I should be thanking for following my obsessively choreographed dance moves I saw reflected back to me in my parent’s bay window.
But me and the window reflection were the only audience members. You see, while you did mostly what I asked, you didn’t listen to me for the things I told you were the most important.
I asked you to be skinnier, taller, and more beautiful. I mean, you weren’t terrible, but you certainly weren’t good enough. You embarrassed me. So I had to punish you with shame, starve you, pluck your hairs out, and keep you in on Friday nights. Even wish you away. You were ruining my life.
I remember hours studying Seventeen Magazine, memorizing every detail on how to make your eyes bigger, your hair straighter, your thighs smaller, your legs longer, your boobs bigger. Why didn’t you get it?
My dad, a world explorer, a lover of ideas and culture and history, would look at me and wonder, why all this time spent on that? He’d hold up The National Geographic and say “Look, pyramids!” He didn’t get it either. What did he know?
And remember when tans were in? I sunburned you so badly that you blistered. And you still wouldn’t hold the colour for long.
You didn’t look good in the clothes I liked either, so I had to wear other clothes, big things that covered you up or things with stripes that made you look smaller than you were. A little smoke and mirrors to distract others from seeing the real you.
Don’t blame me, I had to hide you. I was ashamed of you.
It took me to middle age to realize all the harm I put you through. All in the name of some idea of a single perfect body. Somebody else’s body— who probably doesn’t like her body either.
Today, when I saw that funny little poster on “How To Get a Bikini Body,” you called me out. Yes, I got the message. You are already the body for me. I hadn’t noticed that. Oh, how could I have done this to you for so long? I have so much sadness for you. And for me. And for all that lost time, that hurt, that hatred. So much waste.
I’m so sorry I was embarrassed of you, body. I’m sorry I pushed you away. I hope it is not too late for forgiveness. For some reconciliation? I hope you’ll still have me. You really are good just how you are. I love you.
(Just don’t dare go and age on me now. I’ll try to be gentle with you if you do.)
Here is a gift to us. (I wish this video was around when I was a teen. But I’m grateful for having it now.) So beautiful and free– featuring Frazey Ford joined by many women living well in their bodies: Frazey Ford DONE
Dawn. You wrote an awesome article here and I hope many many girls and women read it and appreciate what you have stated so well. Love yourself—–it is the only self you will ever have. I hope the males will read & learn from it too. Well done.
Thanks Auntie! All seems so obvious, doesn’t it… but the body shame thing cripples so many of us. Feel free to share wide and far. No more hiding.
Dawn – such a great read! Thank you – thank you for being such a good writer and for putting to words your experience in a love letter to your body — Yes! i think we all wish these new messages of beginnings of revolts against a world where this was the *only* perspective to have – even if one
had parents who were suggesting otherwise-
I love that we are lifting the lid on this insidious stuff, and yes we’ve probably all done what you describe. Loving that you jumped to the page with your articulation. And just for a thing to add – it’s so yeah poignant – to know, how much i did happen to admire your body and/because the spirit that made you You – I would never have had any idea that you didn’t admire yourself just as much as I did…
You’ve got me weeping, Elana. Of course, other things happened in my youth with my body that weren’t all shame… but this experience sure did take over. And still does today, just not so much. XOXO
Nicely done Miss M!
This is great! Thank you.
A great story and a great message Dawn