image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp @mightymooseart
A bipolar, body-positive bread enthusiast with a
fucked-up pretty much healed ankle and a history of disordered eating chronicles health, weight-loss, and gardening. No diets allowed.
In grade school, it was my thighs.
In junior high, my stomach.
In high school, it was my thighs and my stomach.
In my 20s, it was less thighs and more stomach (plus stretch marks).
In my 30s, it was everything; I loathed my body.
In a few months, I’ll turn 43. I used to think, it must be miserable to be that old; someone must have made me believe that was the case. People always act like 40 is the starting line of the march to death.
I love being 42.
Last week, my husband asked me if I was happy with my body.
I thought, at first, it was a trick question. Is she REALLY body positive? Or maybe just the opening line of his spoken word poem: I Really Hate My Wife’s Body.
I couldn’t think of anything to loathe, so I said, “Yes. I am really happy with my body.”
And he said, “Good.”
And then we went to bed, had some outstanding sex, and went to sleep.
In my 40s, I loathe nothing.
The thing that occurred to me as I lay in repose (post-coital, pre-sleep) was that I'd spent almost the entirety my life hating some or all of my body.
I hated my thighs first. When I stopped hating my thighs, I shifted the disgust to my stomach, then to my stretch marks, my moles, the three black pubic hairs on my chin, my sagging breasts, the raised-relief topographical river-map of veins on the back of my thighs, my left ass cheek that has an oddly placed dimple.
When I ran out of parts to single out, I opted to hate them all.
The thing about body dissatisfaction, in general, is this — once you’ve become a loather, reversion to lover is as likely as you wearing a string bikini over the ass you hate.
What do I mean? Good question.
What I mean is this, once you pick a thing to loathe, you will continue in this manner until you either settle into loathing a few specific things (thighs, for example), or you just loathe everything.
You may say “if only I could ______ then I’d be happy with my body.”
But once you’ve set that expectation, even if/when you meet it, it’s always followed by another. Once you see yourself as broken, you’ll always see yourself through the lens of inadequacy.
“Fix” your saggy stomach skin, switch to loathing saggy boobs. “Fix” boobs, switch to wrinkles. And so on.
Another thing that often happens, aside from or in conjunction with the loathing thing, is that regardless of your current age, the current version of you will be certain that the 20-year-old or 30-year-old version of you looked amazing.
Current you will think, if only I looked like I did when I was 20 (25, 30 — just subtract ten years from current age). I didn’t even know how good I had it.
Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
Do you ever wonder what current-you-plus-ten-years will think about current-you?
Are you going to look at you-minus-ten-years, and say, “If only I looked like I did when I was 20 (24, 35, 41 — just subtract ten years from current age). I didn’t even know how good I had it.”
If current you wishes you looked like ten-years-ago you, then chances are, the answer is yes. You will continue to idolize past you for the current you, whether you're 35 or 75.
(Probably not when you’re 100, though. The 100-year-old people I’ve met don’t care if they have saggy anything — they’re beyond delighted if they can still get to the bathroom unassisted and don’t have a debilitating disease.)
People look at me, and they think, indignant, self-righteous, “She’s fat.”
I know this, because people who like to call other people fat, often like to say “HEY YOU’RE FAT!” frequently, with enthusiasm, and in public. I’m less fat than I was last year at this time. I’m more fat than I was in 2002. I weigh exactly what I weighed when I ended up on TV two years ago because I wrote an article about loving my fat body — a fat body which was coincidentally the same size it was in the year 2004, right before I went on Weight Watchers and lost 40 pounds (that I would eventually gain back plus 15% interest).
In some circles, I’m not fat enough to be a fatty. In some circles, I look a lot like a lot of other women, who see me and think “There is another person shaped like me.” In some circles, my size is irrelevant, either because folks truly don’t care, or because they never see me above the waist — and my face is fat regardless of the rest.
Either way, people, overall, see me as fat.
I see my body at age 11 and 17 and 26 and 34 and 42, and I see a person who mostly thought she was fat. I see someone who mostly hated her body, who has become someone who doesn’t.
I see many years of time and energy lost to loathing. I think of what I could do with the time I spent in the gym, the emotional energy expended obsessing over calories, the money I spent on a closet full of clothes in your everyday Oprah size-range.
I wish I could go back, all the way to 11-year-old me and tell her that 42-year-old her will think she was perfect. I wish 42-year-old me could hold the hand of 17-year-old me and tell her that her body belonged to her, that it was beautiful and perfect and pure, despite what her childhood taught her. I wish I could reclaim all I lost worrying about my body.
Fat me today looks at 2004 right-before-I-went-on-Weight-Watchers-and-lost-40-pounds me and thinks, if only you knew that the person who loathed herself in this body would in 13 years have the same body and love it.
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Drink your water, boos.
Here's your pee-pee printable. Put it in your potty. That's a lot of alliteration.