Posts Tagged ‘family’

How my mother made me love my body.

April 23, 2009

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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