I get out of the shower and walk quickly past the mirror in the effort to avoid glimpsing myself. Today is not a day that I will be able to manage the self destruction that will begin should I stop and look. But since my head isn’t preoccupied with finding a new defect, I start to wonder…
…when did my body stop being good enough for me?
Was it that first ballet class when my middle aged male instructor commented on my chubby 9 year old thighs? Or the strange arc of my lower back? Or how I carried myself like a line backer?
No. I don’t think so. I still wore shorts those days. I played outside and didn’t worry if my legs weren’t shaved or my hair wasn’t washed.
…when did I start to care about leg to torso ratio?
…when did I start to care about at what angle my thigh bones jut out from my hips?
…when did I start to care about the visibility of my collarbone?
Was it in middle school, when I was short and round faced? Was it in PE when I ran behind the tall, lean, long haired girls who were only a few months my senior? When they’d hit puberty and I was still shaped like my brother?
No. I don’t think so. I still wore swimsuits without shame. I wore short shorts in PE and still didn’t care if my legs weren’t shaved. A pimple on my face was no big deal.
…when did I start to care about how others perceived me?
…when did I start to tell myself that thighs were bad and bellies should be flat?
…why didn’t anyone tell me that growth spurts brought stretch marks, and that they weren’t anything to be ashamed of?
Yes. It was middle school, after all. I did grow between 7th and 8th grade, a lot. Large purple stretch marks appeared all over my torso, my legs. I looked like I’d be scratched, scarred, painfully and deeply. In a way, I suppose I had. I’d only ever associated stretch marks with the bellies of pregnant mothers and assumed I’d grown large, too.
13. 5’5″. 90 lbs. Ashamed. I started eating salads and exfoliating my stretch marks. I secretly bought a stretch mark reducing cream, to be followed up by a cellulite reducing cream a year later. 14. Tan in a bottle. 15. Fake nails. 16.
…when did I start hating my skin and nails?
And then I lost myself. A cloud of constant disgust in myself hung over me. With every movement, I was hyper aware of the roll in my stomach, my thighs – squashed and fat -when sitting. My jiggly underarms.
I chopped off my hair. I stopped trying. I swam in huge sweaters and boys jeans and when I tried to look like the girls in the magazines, I just looked stupid. I was a floating head, detached from my body. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to live in it.
…how many breakdowns did I have in the kitchen?
…how many times was a made hyper aware of the fact that my body determined, or would later determine, my value?
So today I avoided standing in front of the mirror, not allowing myself to be mad about the fact that I don’t have a waist-trained Kim Kardashian waist, thighs like the blonde actress in the upcoming Bay Watch movie, or a torso that is just two inches longer, because I am trying SO hard to accept this body as enough, stretch marks, weird back arcs, and all.