Sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever liked my body. In the 46 years, eight months and nine days I’ve been on this planet, how many of those moments have I not had some fleeting or crushing thought about how I look? I know the answer is very, very few.
My life, for as long as I can remember, has been a constant comparison between how I look and whomever I am looking at, be it a real person, an air brushed model in a magazine, a mannequin, a drawing… The external object of my gaze as it compares to my own body has consumed so much of my mental time for so much of my life that it’s kind of amazing I have been able to accomplish anything else.
I know generally where this comes from, but I’m less interested in laying blame than I am in getting through this too-long phase. I will just say that the first story told about me references the fact that there were two babies in the hospital the day I was born: a tiny, dark haired, perfect little girl and a giant baby with crazy pinkish hair: you can decide which one I might have been. My first recollection of thinking about this goes way back to being about 8 or 9 and eating a soup spoon full of peanut butter. My mom said, in casual passing, “Be careful eating too much peanut butter or you’ll get fat.” or something to that effect. Actually, I don’t even think that’s terrible advice.
But that means that for at least 37 of my 46 years, I have given some kind of thought to how I look, and believe me, a pie chart would show 99.9% highly critical, .01% praise.
Now, before anyone thinks I have completely lost my mind, let me acknowledge that I objectively can recognize that in the body lottery, I came out pretty well. I’m tall, fairly lean and proportional. The rational side of me recognizes that if I could step outside of my body and compare my body to, well, me, I would be pretty envious of it.
But most importantly—so much more important than any other aspect‚my body is healthy. It successfully created, carried and delivered a fabulous child for 7 months and 3 and a half weeks. It has safely and pretty effortlessly transported me around the world for my entire life.
So what’s my friggen’ hang up then? How can I be as intelligent as I am (I mean you don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to understand that health is of more significance than being a size 4, right?) and still, after all these years, be so consumed with how I look or how I don’t look or how someone else looks?
My arms have always been a particular sore spot for me. I just think they are kind of flabby. I remember seeing a production in 1995 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival of You Can’t Take It With You (I know, that’s not Shakespeare). The amazing actor playing the mother had this scene where she was talking to the other mother, a woman far more reserved and pretentious than she, about her bat wings. The amazing actor lifted her left arm and promptly flapped her underarm with her right hand causing gales of laughter from the audience and my internal horror at feeling like I was seeing what could be my future arms.
Occasionally I do a “bat wing” check, still after all these years. In the spirit of comparison, my wings are little, but I would like to eradicate the potential ability to use them for any kind of flight.
So I was surprised to see this pretty awful photo of me that Dr. Marry took earlier this summer. Ignore the fact that I look like a basketball coach sitting on the bench (when in my life have I EVER sat with my legs crossed like this?!?!)
That arm looks pretty amazing. It also looks as long as it is (ask me to pull down the sleeves of just about any top I own and you’ll see that my poor wrists have never had the luxury of being covered by fabric ever in my life). I’m actually kind of proud of that arm. That arm lifts weights, along with its companion arm, four days a week at Spin class. That arm carries boxes and bags and whatever else needs to be hauled from one location to another in service to the arts. That arm wraps around Dr. Marry and others to bring them in close (that’s when it’s handy to have super long arms—makes it easier to corral people).
I was quite sick twice over the summer for weeks at a time both times. I lost some weight (thank you to The Devil Wears Prada for introducing the brilliant phrase “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”), and each time, I made the vow I always make, “This time, I’ll keep the weight off.” But I never do. At least not until this time.
In the middle of the second round of the flu, I decided that it was time to take the Courtney Cox approach to life and try to cut out carbohydrates—at least the totally unnecessary ones. When Friends was at its height, and those women were getting smaller and smaller with each episode while I was feeling more gigantic every week, I read that CC had completely eradicated carbohydrates from her life. I remember thinking, “Well, I don’t want to lose weight that badly.”
But that was back when I could eat a grapefruit for breakfast and lose five pounds. Those days are long gone.
So today, I am working out, trying to be as active in my day to day life as possible and eating fewer simple carbohydrates. And this picture reminds me that, for me, the tradeoff is worth it.
But more importantly, I am actively trying to live in gratitude for my body—for all of it: the parts I like and the parts I don’t. I am long and lean. I am long and lean. I am long and lean. Breathe in. Breathe out. I am long and lean. I am long and lean. I am long and lean.
This body has done everything I have ever asked of it and some stuff that I certainly didn’t expect. I write about it today because there’s something freeing about putting it out to the universe. There’s also something humbling about admitting to my internal struggles. But I know I am not alone in this, and this blog has allowed me to name, embrace and sometimes (begin to) let go of my vulnerabilities. It’s a work in progress, but isn’t everything?
I don’t want to fly anywhere on batwings; I’m committed to keeping my legs healthy and active and letting them take me where I need to go.