My body and I are on speaking terms again. After years of anger and silence, we’re re-learning how to be together. It is a truce of sorts.
We started out the best of friends. When I was little, I liked to make it run in my navy blue Nikes with the white swoosh that made me feel so fast. We rode bikes and caught silver wriggling fish. It felt good in the sunshine and so excited in the rain.
It was me and I was it. Strong and fun and wonderful.
But then, the betrayals. I guess you could say my body broke my heart one too many times. So we stopped being friends. And even though I didn’t start it, I finished it.
We are both to blame.
The first betrayal was when I was a young girl and my babysitter touched my body. He was curious. I was terrified. Not only by the boy, but by the police who interviewed me, the therapist(s) who made me talk about it, and the other boys who came after him, all wanting to touch my body.
I learned a deep lesson that I still carry today. Girl bodies are not safe. Girl bodies are not strong. They make you vulnerable to very, very bad things.
Then I went through puberty, and the hair and the blood and the pain that came with it felt more like a disease than a rights of passage. Parts of my body that made me uncomfortable defined me. My body was no longer fun. It was scary.
The final betrayal started soon after and continues, some 30 years later. My body is not perfect. And it stubbornly refuses to be perfect no matter what.
In high school, I carried my tiny breasts into Victoria’s Secret, hopeful that somewhere among the lacy gorgeousness, I’d find a way to make them bigger. But the sales lady said, “I’m sorry, we don’t make bras in your size.”
My mother tried to help. She introduced me to padded bras, searched for inserts made of silicone and water for a “natural look.” If we’d had the money, she might even have paid for surgery. (I am grateful we didn’t have the money.)
As if that weren’t enough, my body refused to be lithe and thin. So I learned a new trick. I stopped eating. And when that failed, I stuck a pencil down my throat until I gagged, flushing it all down the toilet.
Even though it was painful and scary, it was less painful and scary than being fat in a world that only loves thin. Because the opposite of love is hate, and I didn’t want the world to hate my body.
Then, endometriosis. Surgery after surgery. Harrowing pregnancies. Lost babies. Miracle babies. More surgeries. So many, I actually don’t remember how many. My body wasn’t wonderful. It was a battlefield.
And yet, I started to remember that little girl body, the one before the betrayals. The one that could run so fast, feel good in the sun and excited in the rain.
Because I have a daughter and she is nine, around the age when this all started for me.
I see her brown legs running, small versions of my own. As she giggles in the rain, I take a chance and step out into it, too. It is cold and gentle.
Through her, I am making friends with this body again.
It’s been awkward and scary at times, this re-learning. Painful for sure. When she asks if she looks fat, I recoil and sink inside myself. But then we stand together in the mirror, looking at our bodies.
I reassure her, and myself, that our bodies are beautiful.
When she is too nervous to ride her bike or touch the silver wriggling fish that she caught, I encourage her.
I tell her, and myself, not to be scared.
And when she asks questions about how her body will one day make babies, asks where exactly that baby will come forth from her body, I explain to her, “Oh my dear, this is the very best part.”
Because her body will make another body, and it will be strong and fun and wonderful.
And maybe, if she is very lucky like me, it will teach her something she forgot long ago.