I’ve been thinking about the body. A lot.
Recently, I wrote an article about Radical Body Acceptance for Golden Gate Mothers Group Magazine, which will be a feature in their July/August double issue. It got me thinking about how much practicing radical body acceptance (AKA Operation Rad Bod) has changed my life, and how much work I still need to do.
For the most part, after a year of working to accept and love my body in its shape, I feel freaking hot in it. Recently, I was in a wedding, and we got to pick our bridesmaid’s dress, as long as it was green. Pre-Operation Rad Bod, I would have picked one designed to cleverly hide my body. Something with sleeves, to avoid exposing my big strong biceps that have a permanent post-baby rash on them. A longer dress, so as not to seem like I was trying to be more youthful than I am. I probably even would have tried to wear tights! But since I’ve been loving on my body all year, I chose a dress based on a few things: comfort, ease of dancing, and pretty fabric. I ended up with a sleeveless, short dress, as it was an outdoor wedding in hot central California. And it felt good. I can’t say I love how I look in all the pictures that were taken, but that would really be pushing it. Right now, I am focusing on loving my body when I am in it. A huge leap would be to love and accept the way my body looks in photographs – not sure if I’ll ever get there, but hopefully someday. (And yes I actually struggle to like the photos I’ve posted below. Full disclosure that I am still an Operation Rad Bod work-in-progress)
So, choosing a dress that I felt good in, not a body-hider, was an Operation Rad Bod triumph. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no matter how great I am doing on the body image front, there are at least 2 days a month, when I’m on my period, that it is simply impossible to feel good in my own skin. I’m wondering if it is evolutionary. We can’t get pregnant when we’re on our period, so are we supposed to feel gross to keep us from having sex then? I’m no anthropologist, but I have my suspicions.
For those 2 days a month, I’ve been collecting resources to shore up my feelings of self-worth and love for my body, and I figured I’d share them with you all, for those days when you, too, feel the sum of your parts equals a disgusting person that should be hidden away for all eternity. Because there’s enough hatred out there to make us feel bad about the female form. We need to be fed a nearly-constant diet of body positivity to combat it.
First of all, I read Tomas Moniz’s gorgeous 30 Poems about the body, and found them so brave and true. You can read them all online, but it is even better to hold them in your hands and read them aloud in groups, which you can do by asking him to send you a physical copy. I’ve been keeping mine at my bedside table, returning especially to this quote, over and over: “the body is a wild, wild thing and will find its own form if I just trust it.”
It is a wonderful reminder, that our bodies are more than just what they look like. We live in a culture obsessed with one particular sense over all the others: what we can see with our eyes. What about how a person makes us feel in our souls, what their voice sounds like, what we think about when we are with them? The other day I caught my eye in the mirror while engaging in imaginative play with Olive on our bed. I had an unbidden thought: I’ve always thought of myself as someone who could be lovely, if I lost about 20 pounds. But what if I’m just a beautiful person? Not in spite of the extra flesh, but because of it? Because I’m happy and shining and I love using my mind?
My love of things vintage often reminds me that our culture was not always obsessed with the narrow ideal of female beauty we hold up today: extremely thin limbs, bony face, big boobs. I started following this Etsy company on Facebook, Cult of Aphrodite Vintage, and she posts pictures daily that show that models, performers, and beloved cultural icons/“beauties” once came in a body type much more similar to mine than the same shape I see in every magazine, TV show and movie today.
Olive has recently been asking me, when I sing her her current favorite lullabye (Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2), “What is beauty?” I am looking for a deeper definition than “when you like the way something looks.” One friend suggested: “beauty is the other side of sad. It’s like a bird who flies near you, but then leaves.” Yes. Beauty is something you can’t hold on to. That’s what makes it so precious.
So, poetry. And poetic definitions. And wearing whatever makes me feel good, even if it shows off parts of my body I am still working on loving fully. But also, I’ve been educating myself to undo years of fatphobic cultural education. I have long suspected that the widely accepted belief that fat = unhealthiness is off. The reasoning being, I have known some large people who enjoy wonderful health, and I have known some slender people who have had chronic health problems, and have even died from illness.
Therefore, when this Bitch Magazine article, Sized Up, came out, I was grateful for the research the author had done, which helped me look into this idea further. In it, the author makes the case that the misinformation and judgment about obesity can be compared to homophobia, and that being fat friendly is a queer and feminist issue. She writes: “Body size is determined primarily by genetics, and while diets and exercise programs may produce short-term weight loss, they have a 95 percent failure rate over the long term. Yet like queer people living with hiv or aids, fat people are stigmatized for a condition that is imagined to be their fault.” Interesting, right? Definitely food for thought…
I’m going to revive my Operation Rad Bod posts all summer, writing body-friendly posts and asking for your takes on the issue. So, let me know – what are you doing to love your body (or at the very least, cut back on hating it) lately?