Body acceptance is harder than it should be. We have hundreds of specialized parts working in intricate fashion to do amazing things like dance, perform music, toss a football, swim, do yoga, build blanket forts with our kids, give hugs and make love. Even simple activities like walking, eating and speaking are minor miracles in my book. For the most part, my body works the way I want it to. My body has been good to me, and when my body has suffered, it's usually because of poor choices on my account.
Even people who accept their body often lack the ability to praise and celebrate it. How can we when we are constantly sold an impossible ideal? If we loved our bodies as is, think of how many companies would go out of business. And I'm not just speaking about women or those who are overweight. Everyone struggles to love their body. I know some stunningly attractive people who obsess about their perceived imperfections. Sometimes I think that the closer someone is to being perfect, the more they focus on the things they don't like. I am so far from perfect that it would take all of my time and energy to get anywhere near the American ideal for a woman - and I mean every waking moment and every ounce of energy. It would consume my life. I try to eat right and exercise, but there are only so many hours in the day. My motto is "I'd rather be fat and happy than skinny and miserable."
That is not to say that "real women have curves" as if long, lean women are somehow something other than a real woman. Women (and men, of course) come in all shapes and sizes. We all know this. The trick is to truly love and be excited about the body you inhabit. I was a size 6 in college but I didn't know how to feel good in my skin. I was constantly comparing myself to my even smaller roommate. I don't remember what it feels like to be that thin, but I sometimes do fantasize about it. I wonder what it would be like to be a smaller, thinner, less flabby version of me. I wonder how it would feel to walk into a room full of people and feel confident that my body didn't repulse them. I wonder what it would be like to be able to wear whatever I want because everything looks good on me. I would love to rock a bikini just one more time.
The Militant Baker tells me that I can indeed rock a bikini, or anything else I damn well please. In her post "Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls... So I Will" she declares "Wearing whatever you want is a political statement. ... Wear whatever it is that makes you happy. This is your life." Not that I needed her permission, but I guess I did need her encouragement.
Many of her other statements resonated with me as well:
"When people say 'you're gorgeous,' believe them."
Yesterday, a male friend complimented me. My response? I rolled my eyes, complained that I've gained nine pounds, and said I felt like a beached whale lately. He smiled, "Well whatever you're doing, keep doing it 'cause you look good to me." I continued my self-loathing by telling him how I had to wear my "fat clothes" lately because I couldn't fit into my cute skirts and that I always feel gross in the winter... and..and... And he just looked at me straight in the eyes until I could say it. "Thank you," I said. All I needed to say was "Thank you."
"A guy can pick you up off your feet, and it won't break his back."
I wouldn't have believed it was possible until it happened. I was in the kitchen making dinner, and without warning, the guy I was talking to picked me up and set me on the counter. Like, effortlessly. He just scooped me up and plopped me on the counter. I was in shock. It wasn't to kiss me or make out, it was just a friendly, if slightly flirtatious, gesture. I was elated.
"You're not stunning despite your body. You're stunning because of your body."
I needed to hear this one. This one needs to sink in. I used to say that even though I might not have the body I used to, men should still like me because I am a kind person, and funny, and smart, and responsible, and lots of other things that should make up for my lack of physical beauty. It didn't occur to me that someone would actually like me because of my body. Same goes for men. There are women who want their men big and round. I prefer men bald and smooth all over, but some of my friends like hairy chests and thick beards. I want Boris Kodjoe; they want Rick Ross. Whatever you look like, you are someone's idea of sexy. They will want you precisely because of your body, not in spite of it.
"You are perfect. You are more than enough. You are the best thing that has ever happened to you. And you are beautiful."
That one is going on a Post-it and on my bathroom mirror.