Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Body Images

Today there's a workshop on "Loving Your Body Through the Summer." Don't ask me how I get roped into these things, but I've been invited - nay, commanded - to "share my experience, strength and hope in the area of body image." As I have not one clue how to approach this, I thought I'd hash out a blog post first. Sometimes I do my best thinking on paper - or, in the digital age, white screens that look kind of like paper, with text and little pictures of fish on them. (Hello, fishy.)

What's going to be interesting about this little speech is, I haven't the foggiest idea what I look like. Every now and again I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and either A. don't recognize myself or B. jump in surprise, as in, "Who is that woman wearing my clothes and why is she staring at me?" I don't know why this is so - I recognize myself easily in pictures that were taken, say, ten or fifteen years ago--but the present me is a complete mystery.

I suppose all of us have some idea of what we look like, and we carry that picture around in our heads and either confirm that picture's accuracy or lament that we're no longer seventeen and a half whenever confronted with the physical reality. The thing is, though, I did this when I was seventeen and a half, too. I stared at my senior picture for the old high school yearbook and wondered who in hell it was; it was recognizable as me only because the girl in the picture was
wearing my favorite Eiffel Tower earrings. Now, of course, she looks like me. But this picture of me from Facebook, taken on my birthday--you're kidding. That's me? But she looks so ... so ...


I'm in trouble, here, aren't I? It's hard to share experience, strength and hope about that which you have not one clue. But it gets worse. I also don't know if I'm male or female. Well, okay, I know I have female parts, and I really have no desire whatever to be a guy; imagine having 99% of your decisions being made by--never mind. But I don't always feel like a female. Maternal instinct? I ain't got it. Makeup? Lipstick? Yeah, I do that, because it's expected of me and because I'm a good mimic, but it so doesn't come naturally. But then, neither does mowing the lawn or working with power tools (Joan can tell you how many times I've almost lopped off fingers.) I seem to have grown up without ever learning that secret language of females that everybody else knows but me. Something about wearing high heels and skirts, the mysteries of pantyhose, the places you're not supposed to walk alone at night. Sometimes I feel just like a dude about stuff like that. Not that I'd know what a female (or a dude) feels like because (all together now) I don't know if I'm male or female. I once took one of those quizzes on the Internet that tries to guess if you're a guy or a girl, based on how you answer the questions. It put me firmly in the dude camp. I didn't tell it I was really a girl for fear of hurting its feelings. (Aha! you say. You're worried about its feelings! You're really a girl! And I can't argue with you. I can, however, point out that gay men worry about feelings, too.)

I also don't know if I'm fat or skinny. Well, obviously I'm fat, but I don't know how fat; am I huge or just, you know, fat? I don't always know what spaces I'll fit in, or what clothes, or--whatever. I'm like a cat with no whiskers that way. I'm always mildly surprised when I get into an airplane seat without an extension belt; after needing one for years, it still kind of rattles me that I don't anymore. Numbers on a scale are completely meaningless, as are numbers of sizes of clothes. Can I scooch behind this chair at a restaurant? Can I actually fit into that bathing suit, or do I need the next size up? If I sit here, will I take up too much room?

One thing, though: My body will do basically everything a skinny person's will do, and more. I swim ridiculous lengths on pretty much a daily basis (see fishy, above). I can walk long distances, carry heavy things, run when necessary (though not far), and carry on with the basic stuff of life, thank you. That I'm sometimes in my own way just makes it more interesting. I'm also ridiculously healthy, with normal blood pressure and sugars and a heart rate that's actually a tad lower than average. I blame the swimming. So what if we're not on a first-name basis; we seem to work together pretty well, my physical self and I.

So that's it. My experience, strength and hope. It's going to make for a short speech, isn't it? Well, that's okay. I'm a short person.


Cele said...

So times I think too much emphasis is placed on gender and acting your gender. With that said, I am throughly female, have no desire to be male, but I can use power tools, cuss with the best of them, and like football.

When I see myself in a picture I always look out of place. Does that mean I'm not comfortable with my appearance? My cosmetic bill each month would say so. When I see a woman on TV I think is my build I actually ask my husband, "Is that how I'm built?" Once in a while I will see a picture of myself and totally freak because I see me and what I look like and wonder when the heck did that happen and why didn't I see it?

I think we need to be taught to be happy with who we are instead of spoon fed - be better, be prettier, be thinner. All the shallow things that shoudnt' count. I would much rather be happy with being nicer, wiser, smarter, kinder.

Cele said...

Why do always seem to write a blog of it's own in your comments section and yet can rarly write on my own blog? Inquiring minds (mine in specific) want to know.

Jen said...

I, too, would rather be nicer, wiser, kinder. That's something we should all aspire to.