I read the following essay on Dawn Allison’s blog, Dawn Breaks, and I thought, “I have to share this with my NOLAFemmes readers!” It is such a beautiful and powerful essay on body image and how, with experience and (dare I say it) age, we tend to make peace with our self image and embrace just how amazing our bodies really are.
Dawn’s great-grandfather was a Louisiana native and relatives from both paternal and maternal sides of her family were transplants to New Orleans. Her father introduced her to the city when she was 15 years old and she’s had an ongoing love affair with the city for 32 years now.
This is different… a bit weird, really. But I’ve written a letter to my body after reading Kate’s who was inspired by Andrea whom she found at Plus Size Models Unite. As awkward as it is, it really is a wonderful idea.
I’ve been so hard on you. You didn’t do one thing to deserve all of those hateful, negative feelings I had toward you. I apologize for that.
In the beginning, you and I were fine. We spent so much time outside doing fun things. I was so excited to take you places—sometimes I would forget to dress you but a neighbor lady would call to let my mother know that I was playing outside in my birthday suit. I was only two years old so I hope you understand.
You did great things before I learned about fear. When my uncle wanted to show me off to his new bride, he took me to the golf course and asked me to do back-hand-springs. I asked him how many. “As many as you want,” he said. You flipped on command. I stopped when I felt dizzy. My uncle smiled and said, “I counted 14.” I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you letting me do those cool tricks when I was 8 years old.
The day I fell out of a tree and broke your arm was the day I quit being fearless. My world became a more cautious place at age ten. At age 12, it became a very self-conscious place. I put limitations on you. I didn’t even like looking at you.
I know you overheard so much of what was said about you…about your size, your weight, your shape. You would have preferred that my mind hadn’t bought into all of that but like a wimp, I did. You never wanted to do anything wimpy. That was all me.
I tried to force change on you. I looked at glossy magazines covers and wished your bones poked out like the beautiful, hungry models. I did exercises I learned in a book titled “Thin Thighs in Thirty Days” hoping you would cooperate.
But you didn’t want to be thin. You wanted to be strong.
I finally understood that around the time I turned twenty-five. I’m sorry it took me so long. I quit wishing your legs would grow longer and thinner because for whatever reason, God designed you to be strong. I let that settled into my soul one day and realized that you could carry people out of burning buildings if necessary. It made me feel like I had purpose. It made me smile.
Thank you for being so fertile and carrying all those babies. I don’t fully understand why you had to suffer Hyperemesis Gravidarum and take me along for that ungodly ride…but you survived it. We both did. Charlotte Bronte did not. As difficult as it was growing babies, you birthed them like an athlete. If birthing babies was an Olympic Event, you would definitely have qualified. You produced plenty of milk to nurture babies. I never once woke in the night to prepare a bottle, thanks to you. You allowed me to snuggle and feed and sleep, all at the same time. For nine years total. My kids benefited from your goodness.
I wish I had been as good to you as you were to me. The body-image thing haunted me for far too many years and you took the punishment for it. The year I turned 40, my mind finally saw things your way. Something about my granddaughter coming into the world reversed all of that negativity. One day she caught a glimpse of my behind and said, “I see your hiney. It’s beautiful!” And that was all it took.
In a world filled with heartache and stress where people eat Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac like candy, you’ve allowed me to thrive on nothing but chocolate and a great endorphin rush to help combat the blues. You’ve allowed me keep doing cartwheels after ACL Reconstruction on both knees, not to mention the Lumbar Discectomy and Laminectomy. If I had been successful at making your thighs thinner, you wouldn’t have bounced back from these things like you did because studies show that strong quads give us more God-given pain relief. You must have known I’d need it someday.
It amazes me that you still want to run and play and ride mountain bikes after all of that. You keep things interesting. I really do love you. You’ve been so very good to me.
I finally learned to listen to you and discovered that you prefer a workout called Leg Hell over the Thinner Thighs thing. You crave intensity no matter what your size. Today I am sore from the work-out you did yesterday. As we speak, you are repairing all those micro-tears in the muscle fibers. I made sure to feed you plenty of good food to help the process because if I’m lucky, I’ve still got half a lifetime with you.
Thank you for putting up with me.