Ah, this body.
I remember you when you were six, tottering through the front yard in high heeled plastic shoes. You tripped on a pine cone and scraped your knee, but you loved those shoes. You kept hoping they would make your chunky legs look like the Rockettes you’d seen earlier that year.
You were forever adorning yourself with bracelets and rings and stolen-from-your-mother make up in a desperate attempt to be glamorous. All you wanted was to be beautiful. But you were, as you overheard an adult once say, “as plain as a plate.” (This same adult would later urge you to enter a restaurant before her, saying that “beauty comes before age”, and you will never know if she was making fun of you or trying to make you feel better about yourself.)
In seventh grade, you skyrocketed to six feet tall, leaving behind all the cheerleaders and pom pom girls (and any possible sweetheart) in a blaze of your skeletal prowess. You promptly rebelled by contorting that skeleton into a big S shape. I’m sure you regretted that decision once they slapped a brace on you, but by then, it was too late to do anything about it.
By high school you were still inexplicably tall, but now, you were working it. You found out that height gave you power, and even if you couldn’t make people love you, you could intimidate them. You developed a brash and arrogant attitude to cover up all the bruised spots inside and you enjoyed this cloak of impenetrability.
Still, you just wanted what you’d always wanted; to be beautiful. By the time you moved to New York, you thought you’d figured out how. You grew out your long blonde hair, starved yourself down to a waif-y (for you) 140 lbs., and started hanging out with models. Your reasoning was that if you hung out with enough of them, you might be mistaken for one—and sometimes you were. But you always knew you were a fraud.
By the time you met that mean guy in your mid-20s who somehow convinced you you were better than everyone else, but worse than him, you were primed to be exploited. When he took you to strip clubs and waxed philosophic about the dancers, your eyes were wide with jealousy. When he suggested you too, should dance, it seemed obscene, but tantalizing. This body, with it’s meager breasts and overgrown legs—dance? Unimaginable.
You didn’t realize he was grooming you to do just that. And when you did, and you were good, you took perverse pride in it. Shoving those breast implants into your chest was the next logical step, and you did it with gusto. You were rewarded by immediately quadrupling the money you made at work, where your height, your hair, and your new cleavage suddenly came together in a perfect storm, making you what you had always wanted to be.
But being desirable, you discovered, wasn’t the same as being beautiful, and found that you couldn’t dance without altering your consciousness. You snorted a huge amount of drugs into your poor nose, which dutifully bled almost every night. You never slept, and when you were awake, you were delusional, lamenting the passage of yet another day during which you hadn’t seen the sun. Your hair and your teeth began to yellow, and the bloom, as they say, was off the rose.
At 29, you were washed up.
You came close to death, but you never really thought you would die. You, your flesh, your bones, the firing synapses of your brain, were far too stubborn for that.
You left that life as suddenly as you had entered it. You had help, but it was your beating heart that led the retreat. You brushed away the drugs like they were nothing, you began to eat and sleep again, and slowly, but in reality, quickly, you watered the flower that was you and brought it back to life. Like a time elapsed film of barren land exploding with life in the springtime, all the good parts of you began to emerge again.
In a few years, you became pregnant. When you discovered a seed had taken root, you shivered with fear from your eyelashes down to your calloused feet. Your flesh now, was not your own. Something inside you was growing and pulling, expanding into every corner of you mercilessly, until you were ready to explode, it’s foot lodged perpetually between two of your right ribs.
When your child was born, you were stunned to discover that your flesh had created this flesh. These eyes that gazed into your own, these fingers that bunched up into an angry fist and punched the air around your face.
After that feat, how could I ever doubt you again?
But I have. I’ve been cruel. Judging your sagging flesh, the ripples on your thighs, your thinning brows, the nearly invisible mustache you have grown, all blonde hairs like the hairs on the arm of your son. I’ve refused to gaze at you in the mirror and have turned out the lights in shame.
Silly me. You have been an honorable guard in the conflict that is my life. I have battered you and poisoned you, and still you’ve born me fruit and been a reliable conduit between my soul and this world. What more could I ask for?
Know that I will treat you better now, not just by doing the right things, but by thinking the right thoughts. I will fill you with yoga, and walking, naps, and child’s poses and kind words. I will never hate you again, or force you to be something you are not.
You are the ship which has allowed me passage through the strangest seas—what kind of captain would I be if I didn’t take you into port when you were tired and tend to your leaky boards and barnacle coated hull?
You sailed me in, you’ll sail me out, and instead of fighting you, I’ve decided to enjoy the ride.
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