Object Lesson

At the risk of sounding dissociative, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that “me” and “my body” are two separate but closely related entities that happen to occupy the same space.

It took me a long time to come around to this realization: I had this guilty sense that if I thought of my body as separate from “me” then I was denying my Self in some way: as if my physical form was somehow the “real” me even when I struggled to reconcile my physical self to the “me” I felt like inside. I could imagine myself to be six feet tall all I wanted: I was never going to grow another three inches. I could imagine skin with a healthy, golden, sun kissed tan, but I was never going to accomplish any kind of sun contact that didn’t leave me the color of a spanked lobster. And all the visualization and manifestation in the world was never going to put arches into my paddle-like hobbit feet.

It seemed that there was nothing to be done but learn to accept the disappointment of my physical shortcomings. This, I believed, was good: humbling- a way to ward off vanity and narcissism. When someone offered me a compliment I remembered my shortcomings and demurred apologetically: thanks, but I’m not perfect, so… Shucks.

I got soft and lumpy. I put on lines. I looked in the mirror and thought: well you’re getting older, you might as well just accept that this is how it’s going to be for the rest of your life.

And the rest of my life began to look profoundly disappointing.

It was June and my Twitter feed was suddenly flooded with Pride related tweets about body dysphoria and self acceptance and people defining themselves as people-with-male-bodies or people-with-female-bodies instead of as “men” or “women” because sometimes their physical characteristics didn’t match their sense of self.

That, I realized, sounded familiar.

I have a woman’s body.

I tried it on for size: in my head, I started to say “I have a woman’s body”, instead of “I am a woman”. It was a subtle act of grammatical redefinition: Subject vs Object. One a state of being, the other a possession. The feminist dilemma.

The irony is not lost on me that I only really came around to loving my body when I started thinking of her as a possession. It was hard for me to love my body as my Self, but it was easy to love her as my most prized possession. I jokingly wrote to a friend that I was starting to think of my body as my wife: a partner for life until death did us part. But after I wrote it I realized it was true: I liked her. I loved her. I was proud of her. She was strong and resourceful and full of life as she’d always been there for me even though I hadn’t always treated her very well.

Happy wife, happy life, right?

Suddenly, it no longer felt like vanity to take a compliment: you think my body looks great? Yeah, she totally does. Self care stopped feeling selfish. I stopped feeling guilty about eating cake, because sometimes my lady wants cake, and I stopped feeling basic for eating salad, because sometimes my lady wants a salad, damnit! And I stopped thinking of running as Exercise To Look Good And Lose That Flab and started thinking of it as recess when I could run around because sometimes my lady just wants to run around.

My body responded to this immediately.

Within a few months the softness has gone. The lumpiness has gone. The lines are still there, but frankly I don’t care because she worked hard to earn them and I wouldn’t want to take that away from her. We’re stronger, healthier, pain free and glowing with life.

We look good.

It suddenly feels ok to just love my body for everything she is instead of forcing myself to justify my shortcomings by telling myself they keep me humble. And that humble is good. And that apologizing for not being Perfection Itself is somehow better than just saying “thank you”.

So, yes: I realize that it’s obnoxious to refer to oneself in the third person, so much of this re-framing has happened within the privacy of my own mind, but at the same time, it was too profound of a realization for me to keep to myself. It only took me thirty six years to realize it.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 28, 2018.

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