I sat in the semi-crowded train a few days ago, oblivious to the people around me, trying to send a text before we went underground. Text message sent, still above ground, I looked up and realized that people were staring in my direction. I looked down, and I saw my cleavage. Feeling a bit of discomfort at the thought that they may be staring at me because of it, I pulled my blouse up to ensure that I was fully covered. I looked up again, everyone was still staring in my direction, but not at me at all. Annoyed at the silliness of my initial assumption, I grabbed my phone and sent a text:
“Let’s play psychologists!”
“Would you say that I’m uncomfortable showing cleavage because of my feelings about my body or because of my feelings about my sensuality?”
“I’d say it’s the feelings about your body.”
The train went underground. I lost track of the conversation, and my thoughts went to the day before and my post regarding my Red bull addiction habit, where I’d written, “I can see my beautiful hourglass figure again.” Moments after publishing, I considered going back to edit it, to remove that sentence because it felt so arrogant. How dare I think that that I am beautiful, let alone tell the world.
Then my thoughts went to Friday, when at my ex-boyfriend’s house to pick up my bike, I stood in front of him, arms to the sides, asking if he noticed the 20+ lbs. weight loss that I’d told him about. He shook his head and shrugged as if confused, and said something to the effect that as a man he didn’t notice those things. A comment that seemed disingenuous, considering only four months before, he took notice of, and felt the need to speak of, my weight gain.
The train arrived at my stop, I set out to meet my friend, thoughts of my body all but forgotten.
Then, the other night, in my workout pants, tank top, and sweater, ready to head out for a walk with Lola, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and smiled. I liked what I saw. Far from perfect, to be sure, but there it was, a semblance of the body I used to know; a combination of feminine curves and strength, returning to itself, returning to me.
I’d never seen my body in this light before, I tried and faked it, but never appreciated its beauty. In fact, the attention that body attracted scared me, compelled me to hide it in layers of self-hate disguised as fat.
But a disguise cannot hide you from yourself, and the disparity between the simple, silly girl I thought myself to be, and my body’s unwanted powerful effects, effects that seemed to bring me only pain, made me resentful. Unable to accept it as part of me, I used it, disparaged it, took it for granted and forced it to share in my pain. It became an entity separate from me, the enemy with whom I was forced to contend.
You saw this, my body, beckoning you to navigate its curves, feel its softness, its roundness, its swells.
You were blinded by its power, mesmerized as it drew you in, rendering you weak, unable to resist the urge to explore, to venture into the unknown.
You stared into my eyes and saw yourself in the depth of my thoughts and you retreated.
You heard the beat of my heart as it sang its song of love and you retreated.
You felt the strength of my spirit and discovered weakness in yours, and again, you retreated…
The thing about an imagined enemy is that it’s built with the power to deflect. In the war that you wage, the weapons of anger, resentment, and hate that you fire in its direction, much like a boomerang, change directions and wound only you. A series of battles you can never win.
So it was months ago, that wounded and weary after years of battle in a war I was losing, I raised the white flag of surrender, asking for peace.
And this night, as I stood at the mirror, still smiling in approval, a flood of memories filled my thoughts. Images of days spent hiking up beautiful mountains and nights spent dancing with abandon, were a reminder that my body and I were once friends. I wanted to cry for all I had done to destroy who we were, for letting my fear of its power over others, distort its power over me.
But tears and regrets cannot undo the damage, only with clarity can we face our fears, move forward, and continue to make peace. So as of this moment, I promise that I’ll find the courage to love you without shame; to shout from the rooftops that you are beautiful, you are strong, and that you and I are we.
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