Someone younger than me has said that she is old. And I will get no younger. The lines drawn on my face by my smiles and grins and the silly faces that I make? They’ll grow only deeper. I love them because they are a part of me, but I understand them through the context of that hatred that others express for similar things. Conflict.
Someone more toned than I has said that she is flabby. I hesitate to mention that the loose skin on my belly is backed with fat, because I know that there will be others who will wear my words just as I wear the words of others.
Teeth yellowed with coffee that keeps me awake enough to smile. Slight overbite, one tooth out of line along the bottom. A big birthmark on my leg, toenails that often show the unwashable remnants of the garden dirt and grass stains from gardening barefoot, as well as the black that remains from when my middle child broke my toe last year. Chicken thighs white where my shorts keep them covered. Legs that I hid for years under jeans before motherhood in the summer heat made me simply not care to hide myself anymore.
I see the skin that changes as I get older and I see myself growing into the body that my mother and my grandmother bemoaned when they and I were younger. The skin that older women spoke of when I was just nineteen and they wanted to travel back in time.
There’s almost an obligation to hate oneself in order to fit in. To recognize the elements of beauty that we see in others, but to obstinately refuse to mention anything but the downsides of ourselves. To only see our own flaws even if we focus mostly on the positives of those around us. There is an obligation that we feel to point out our own flaws when other people point out their flaws. Like a vicious cycle of self deprecation that we all jump on board with in the hopes of making others feel less alone with the self dislike that we all feel so lonely with.
The body that I live in is but one thing. It is a vehicle that carries me about a life that I live that I can fill with beautiful things. My non-manicured feet dig into the garden dirt as I plant living food that grows and that my children eat with joy and wonderment in the summer sun. My fingers tap out words that others have found comfort in. My face cracks open in a smile that tells my children exactly how much delight I find in their silly wonderfulness. And the core of me catches them up in fierce and happy hugs when they launch themselves into my arms.
We’re told at various points in time that we are beautiful, and then we’re told that we’re not and it’s this thing that becomes like a huge elephant in the room. Am I beautiful today? Am I worthwhile? Am I perfect? Do I need to suck on bleach-lined rubber in the hopes that my teeth will be whiter? Should I have my breasts cut open and pushed up? The fat sucked from my abdomen? Should I spend two hours in the gym instead of with my family? Do my toenails make me look fat?
There’s more to me than beauty and the question of if I’m beautiful or not. Beauty is an idea that others give and take away with the words they dress you up in before they strip you bare.
I’m trying to put fewer words out there so that my daughter will have fewer words to wear and so that she’ll be comfortable just standing there in her skin, naked of the self loathing of others. I want her to wear all the happy things that make her joyful.
I’m not so worried about my sons, men seem to be allowed to be defined by things other than the skin and clothes that they live in, or the extra weight they carry. I hope my sons will define themselves with many happy things.. My daughter, though? My wishes for her run deeper. I want her to have the things that I am trying to find for myself.
Your body, little one, is this strong and wonderful thing. It carries you places that you are curious about. It an expression of the things that you think and feel. It is the feet that hit the ground as you run, the hands that climb you up on rocks that make you taller. It is what carries your curious little mind under things and over things. It is the hands that let you explore everything that makes you wonder.
It is beautiful, yes. Because of the energy that you fill it up with. Not because of the picture that it paints in this fleeting moment of time.
Go ahead. Dress up. Work out. Dance in a club. Paint your face with bright colors. Wear shoes for no other reason than fun. Enjoy what you are on the outside. But don’t let it be all that you are. And don’t let the words that others give you to wear cast off the words that form who you are inside. Focus your life on your foundation and on the beams and rafters that make you withstand a hurricane or earthquake-strong. Then splash it with color that makes you happy, and plant your garden beautiful and brilliant rather than perfect.
Own yourself. And choose the words that you wear carefully. You wouldn’t take kindly to someone egging your house. Don’t take kindly to someone egging you.