Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Body of a Woman

I had just come back from a 9-mile run and was drenched.

You know that feeling when you're trying to take off clothes and you're soaked...not only is it impossible, but it's frustrating and it hurts.

Desperate for a shower, halfway through the process, I looked up into the mirror and all I could see were the parts of me that I wished weren't there.

Dimples, stretch marks, too much extra around the middle and the back side.

I don't know what it's like to be a man.  I'm raising a son, but viscerally, I really only know what it feels like to be a woman.

My earliest memories recall me being complimented for being a pretty girl.  Usually, it was connected to a dress I was wearing or a cute get up.  As I grew, I became mindful of how the girls at school were constantly aware of how they appeared to the world...particularly, when we all started getting our periods, learning to apply make-up, watching our boobs grow or not and using the word fat or skinny like it was good morning or hello.  Not only did you have to wear the right clothes...Benetton, ESPRIT, Guess, but you also had to look the part.

Later throughout highschool and college, I continued to be aware of my physical appearance.  I attributed it to the reason why my crushes picked the other girl...she was for certain, prettier.

And while girls take great notice in how cute boys doesn't seem to me that the goal of a boys life is to be noticed.

My grandmother was a beautiful woman.  She modeled in New York in the 1940's and was extraordinarily striking.  For the majority of her adult life, she was a master bridge player, read 2-3 daily newspapers voraciously, kept current on political issues, danced the shit out of the Jitterbug with anyone who could keep time and raised two beautiful children.

Toward the end of her life, we were talking about what it feels like to be a woman walking down the street who no longer gets noticed.  It's a strange feeling she remarked.  Because while we as women loathe the parts of our bodies that aren't perfect, we also find identity in them.  And when the world decides that you're no longer worthy of a second glance, well, a little part of you dies.

Rubish, I thought.

I want to be known for my brain and my heart and my humor.  Pishaw on the outward.  But when I'm really quiet with myself, I realize that's not entirely true.  Because if it was, when I was stripping out of my running clothes and caught a quick glimmer of myself, I would have been proud...bearing witness to the raw strength and tenacity of a woman who goes the distance.  Instead, all I could muster were a few gulps at seeing the flaws that in theory should be reminders of the children I bore or the chocolate I consumed to maintain sanity while raising them.

But the truth is, even as little girls, we learn that it feels good to be noticed, to be desired, to be wanted, to be complimented.  And often, before you ever open up your mouth and utter a word, it is you standing on a street corner getting ready to cross and a person across the way, taking it in.

And I'm not sure that's such a bad thing.  We are physical beings in a physical world. The danger lies in feeling like it's the only measure or the most important measure of worth...because as we all know, it has nothing to do with who you's just a small snap shot in time.

As I raise a son and two daughters, my prayer is that they will be aware of their bodies.  I don't know how you can't be.  It's an extraordinary part of who we are.  But as they look in the mirror, really look to see who they are...I pray that they will see all that their bodies do for them and for others.  It's magnificent and so much bigger and more powerful than just being's a representation of a beautiful life being lived.

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