When my bra fitting this week told me that my size doesn’t exist, well pointed out that I do and it should. My body may not be fit model ideal, but in all its quirks, abilities, and beauty it is mine. And as Anne Hansen points out in this great piece from the archives, it’s pretty special. Exactly as is.
Our guest post comes from Anne Hansen. Anne is a mother of boys, wife of Wade, English teacher on extended sabbatical. gardener, reader, and modestly paced runner. She loves naps, flowered dishes, cookies, and light blue. She writes weekly for Hey Nonny (http://www.hey-nonny.com).
Is it my recent foray into the painfully early “Body Attack!” class at the gym? (That’s a lot of plastic surgery in one room.) Maybe it’s because my husband and I just watched What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Whatever the reason, lately I’ve been preoccupied with our culture’s unhealthy extremes in body image.
Regardless of where we fit along the container continuum, I’m pretty sure at some point we all take issue with the way we look. My son Thomas (4) hates that his hair is boofy. Another son, Scotty (7), is stressing over a new mole. I’m convinced I’m aging straight towards a horse face.
So I thought my friend was wise when she told me that at every opportunity, she’d say to her three-year-old daughter, Your body is special. She knew the message was sinking in when her daughter took to blithely tearing open the shower curtain on the unsuspecting man of the house and squealing, “Daddy! You body is-a special!”
And really, our bodies are special. Take the small maroon birthmark on the inside of my right calf that looks just like the old Skaggs Alpha Beta logo and disappears under pressure, then magically refills. My husband has a BB pellet permanently lodged in his left cheek, the battle scar of a four-year-old which has enlivened many a dental x-ray. My brother has a patch of hair (now gray) that for twenty years stayed his baby red in defiance of the brown locks he grew as a boy. My sister’s legs can run a half marathon in 1:46. My baby niece’s belly button holds a tiny balloon of air that replenishes after every tummy tickle.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and five years ago this fall my mom was diagnosed with the disease. Today she’s in a beautiful remission, and my family is thankful for her healthy body every day. Mom had her own version of Your body is special while raising my three sisters and me. Every morning before school she’d tug our hair into braids, curl our bangs, and in a haze of Aqua Net recite: You are beautiful, inside and out.
It was a strange reversal of roles, then, when I sat my mom down in front of the bathroom mirror to shave off the thick red hair which had begun to fall out in response to her second round of chemotherapy. She took off her glasses, and we made nervous small talk while her hair littered the floor. When she put her glasses back on and looked in the mirror she yelled, “WHY did you do that to me?!” We laughed, we cried, and—eventually—her hair grew back.
I don’t want to sound simplistic. I realize there are cancers which do not remit, physical irregularities going far beyond curiosities, self-image diseases that plague. But doesn’t that suffering make it more important to celebrate the parts of our bodies that are operational?
That’s why I’m sticking with the theme that works for a three-year-old. Your body is special. That’s also why I’m not getting up at 5:30 anymore to go to the gym.