How my mother made me love my body.

My mother’s mother was anorexic.  As my mom grew, her body became a site for my grandma’s own disgust and self-hatred.

My mom could never eat little enough or wear girdles tight enough to please her.  My grandma’s stinging criticisms and insults diminished my mom’s ability to enjoy food.  Made her worry more, enjoy her body less.

My mom pledged to break the cycle with her own daughter.  Though she dieted constantly and continued to revile her own body, my mother told me I was beautiful throughout my childhood.  And not just that I was beabodyutiful now, at a certain moment, at a particular size and shape — but that I had always been, and would always be, beautiful.

I didn’t believe it, of course.  Our culture scrutinizes women’s bodies, and I scrutinized my own.  I hated my thighs.  I hated the shape of my hips.  I hated my small breasts.

I became transfixed by the images of women I found in magazines.  I wanted to unlock the secrets of their beauty.  At one point, I literally measured the dimensions of these models — both their bodies and their faces.  After careful calculation, I concluded I wasn’t beautiful — no matter what my mother told me.

Over the years, I have slowly, slowly become comfortable with myself. Being femme and performing femininity has allowed me to see my body a site of creativity and social commentary; sex has played a complicated but ultimately essential role in establishing my body as my home.  And my sense of my own worth and my own beauty has increasingly come to rest on my internal values rather than on external sources of validation.

Ultimately, this is what my mother taught me: bodies are beautiful because they are human.  Because everyone scars differently.  Because there are twenty-six bones in a foot.  Because you sing using muscle.  Because of the mystery of an itch, and the relief of scratching it.  Because round and flat and light and dark and large and small can all be gorgeous.  Because they’re even more gorgeous if you use your hands. Because contractions are shapeshifters that bring pain, laughter, and ecstasy.

Because we live here.  Because we love here.

Thank you, mom, for this gift you have given me.  I take care of my body, tend to it as carefully as you do your garden.  I give it air, good food, water, touch, light.  You once carried my body in your own body, gave me life.  It is with joy that I am in your debt.

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4 Responses to “How my mother made me love my body.”

  1. terisica Says:

    This is such a tribute to your mother and speaks to what I write about in my blogs – “Discovering Authenticity”.

    I loved what you said about your body being “your home”, about not measuring your worth by others’ validation but by your own values.

    Remember what your mother said about “scarring differently”? How true!

    As a pscyhotherapist and coach for over 28 years, I’ve learned that there is a huge price to pay when we feel we must conceal our pain/weaknesses and hide our scars. Let’s look at how much negative energy goes into “concealing”. Why not start peeling away all of the layers and “revealing”?

  2. undercoverpunk Says:

    That is really, really beautiful. I believe that having a loving mother is one of the greatest gifts that life can give. Has your mother seen this? I think she should. 🙂

  3. highfemme Says:

    Update: I gave my mom a copy of this posting on Mother’s Day. She was deeply moved, and has been sending we sweet little letters on her own life and perceptions ever since!

  4. undercover punk Says:

    Oooh, thanks for the update! That’s so lovely 😉 ! I believe that when we have something nice to say, we should make a point to say it whenever we can. It fosters good will and positivity–especially among women!

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