I have heard tell of a magical time, when my body was simply a curly haired vehicle for transporting me to pools and parties, my mother’s arms and Fairyland. I have even heard tell that from its 2 year old pudge to its 5 year old lankiness, I saw this body only as a magical spinner-arounder, Daddy climber, crayon- holding glitter-sprinkler and mud pie maker. I had fun. I woke up and it helped me tumble out of bed. It told me where my arms where so I could hug my friends. It knew exactly where to cram brownies and how to scream “READY OR NOT HERE I COME!” with fearsome volume. It got sick, sported band-aids, held a thousand kisses and a million dreams. It was my friend. It was me.
Hearing these tales of splendor, I have to wonder…when did we become such enemies, this miracle machine and me? Somehow, in my 30 years on this earth, I have felt the need to put it through anorexia, bulimia and plain ole overeating. I have denied it fruits and vegetables and have force fed it alcohol. I have stuffed it into tiny bikinis and wailed at the appearance and I have buried it beneath layers of baggy clothes and wailed at the appearance. I have starved it, over-gymed it, pilled it, diet fadded it; I have overfed it, over- TV’ed it and showed it no mercy, neither physical, emotional nor psychological.
I have degraded it with clothes that neither showed nor demanded the respect it deserved. I have demoralized it with frumpy clothes that clearly informed breasts, limbs and outline that they deserved only shame and hiding. Everyday for years, I waged this war, throwing psychic, lifestyle and sartorial bombs that all served to reinforce to this body of mine one thing: it had failed me.
Long before childbirth and Diabetes began the steamy tango of obesity in my life, I told my body in a thousand ways that I had no use nor respect for it. How could I truly be surprised by its rebellion? No, not the Big D. I mean the pre-ulceric conditions I developed and the dimply legs I bear, the drying skin and brittle hair, the acne and the aches- all understandable responses to the hell it had been put through.
As I sit here, finding myself increasingly introspective with each insulin injection, I wonder what messages I’d write to her, if I had a daughter. What I would tell her about breasts that grow too quickly or too slowly; about a butt that draws attention or pity; about skin that burns, peels, freckles, flares up or hair that dances to its own frizzy beat? How would I empower my beautiful daughter to hold on to the notion that her body, in ALL its incarnations, is still just a companion for her soul, a carrier for her spirit and all that she is and can become?
What would I say or do to impress upon her little-girl soul in a way that lasts for the rest of her life, that this body was designed by God and filled with a million miracles just waiting to burst forth; that it is not a prison, but a willing partner in taking her wherever she needed to go- to France, to fitness; to a Master’s degree, to motherhood; to the impossible, the improbable, the incredible?
I think I would…simply tell her all those things. I would say it with words, with notes, with hugs, with kisses. I would chant it outside the changing room when she’s tempted to believe fluorescent lights and magazine lies over the Truth of her Beauty. I would whisper it to her as she slept so in the morning she would tumble out of bed and into confidence that her hair and skin are not Who She Is. I would close my eyes and prayerfully send it out to her across the miles so that no college, no break up, no weight gain, no pregnancy, no illness, no old age and no patient, latent lie could ever erase her sense of self worth with comparisons that Do NOT Matter.
I would tell her: You are loved NOW. You are valid NOW. Don’t wait for later and some predetermined weight or complexion to allow yourself to shine, to sparkle, to embrace your life!
I would tell her: Your mirror is only shiny glass. If it ever comes down to this, then break it before you let it break you.
I would tell her: Be strong, be confident, be aware of your worth.
I would tell her: You were called here by name. The heavens know you by design. God called you by purpose.
I would tell her: DEFY THE LIES. Arise and BE my darling. Not ‘be pretty’ or ‘be slender’. Be. Be. BE! And know that every second of your being is giving the world something beautiful.
I would tell her: Nothing, not even that body, can imagine or contain what you’re truly capable of, what God called you here to accomplish.
I would tell her: Wait for it. One day you will see: you have always, always been beautiful. And not just to me.
Everyday, I will tell my sons a version of this, encouraging them time and again to defy the lies they’ll be told by man, magazine and themselves.
But this rendition, exactly as it is?
I will begin telling myself. Today.