I wore yoga pants all day today.
I admit that I put them on because I was feeling a little puffy, a little bloated perhaps. After returning from a week away from home, I recognized that my eating and exercise habits while on vacation were lacking. It’s possible that those habits had been lacking, in fact, even before the vacation. Stress does that to me. Stress does that to a lot of people. I know I’m in good company.
After stepping from the shower that first day back from vacation I had a quick look in the mirror, and the first thought that sprang to my head was bitter and condescending. “Oh god, I’m getting so fat. I hate my thighs.”
My daughter is a tender 17-year-old willow tree of a girl. She is strong and capable, an activist, a powerful beauty. At no time in my parenting would it ever occur to me to comment negatively on her body. At each juncture of development, I go out of my way to instruct her to love her body, to care well for it. I give her affirmations. I give her what I hope is a good foundation. It occurred to me after voicing those criticisms from my glimpse in the mirror after the shower, that if I ever talked to my daughter the way I talk to my own body, it would be downright abusive.
Why the disparity?
Once I saw a movie in which a man was hitting a child. When one character in the movie attempted to stop the abuse, the man looked up from his terrible work and said, “He’s mine! I can do with him what I want!” Here I am, offering up verbal barbs to my own body day after day. It’s mine! I can do with it what I want!
My body and I have lived together nearly 47 years now. There has never been a time in our temporal lives when we have not been intertwined. We are inseparable here on Earth, living out our days in mutual habitation. We have everything in common except for the abuse I heap upon it. My body is good to me; it gives every single day. My body processes air without complaint, as though it is no trouble at all. It houses the systems of life, pumping blood, moving muscles and obeying impulses from my sometimes foggy brain or my often misguided will, and then I step from the shower and say awful things to it.
I wore yoga pants all day today because my jeans are too tight, my ample muffin top spilling over the edges, a constant reminder of poor choices in either fuel or fashion. I pine for a return to the fashion styles of the 1940s. I consider Betty Grable wearing a bathing suit that stopped where my muffin top would naturally ebb. I consider the classy style of Katherine Hepburn rolling up her sleeves of her starched white dress shirt tucked carefully into high-waisted dress pants as she gives Spencer Tracy a piece of her mind. I wonder if she ever said haughty things to her body. I wonder if Betty Grable hated her thighs.
Someone forwarded a quote to me recently that read, “Mother Teresa didn’t walk around complaining about her thighs. She had shit to do.” When I posted it on my Facebook wall, my feed exploded. Women and men alike roared to life—they “liked” it and commented on it and affirmed it. Life’s too short to complain about our thighs, after all. But I do it, and I’m pretty sure every woman I know does it, even though we all have shit to do. It’s easy to fall into the habit of complaint.
It’s easiest to do it in the privacy of my home, in the intimate moments when I’m alone, in the moments just after I step from the shower after a long week away, after an eight hour drive with only “fast food” to quell the hunger that creeps in.
As I drive and eat, I can almost feel the poisons leaching into my cellulite. Here, in the middle age part of my life, every small choice matters. I can no longer rely on a fast teenage metabolism. I can no longer rely on a willowy build. I can no longer rely on my body to make up the difference. So when I step out of the shower and see the havoc I’ve wrought, of course it’s easy to blame the messenger.
I wore yoga pants all day today because of the comfort, but also because of the shame and the built up resentment and anger I hold. I am sorry, Body. I am sorry for it.
I am sorry for the harsh words and the tight, constricted clothing meant to contain the damage I’ve done. I am sorry, Body, for the bad meals and the short cuts and then the blame placed on you. I am sorry for the years of talking trash about you to myself, to other people, to the doctor and the personal trainer and the Facebook friends. I wore yoga pants all day and I discovered you again—every curve, every bulge, every cell.
I held you again, wrapping my arms around you when I would begin to forget that we’re in this together. I placed my hands on my thighs, on my rear, on my belly. I said, “I love you, lots and lots, Body,” and I cried a little each time, afraid you would not believe it’s true, but it is true.
So, I wore yoga pants all day and I let you breathe easy and I breathed easy and I ate spinach and broccoli instead of French fries just this once at least, and we both agreed that it was a good choice.
We're pleased to be giving away a copy of Angela's new book, Nearly Orthodox, to one of our readers. Write a comment below and we'll pick a name and notify the winner on Tuesday. Congratulations to Cathy Warner, who will receive a copy of Nearly Orthodox!
Angela Doll Carlson
Angela Doll Carlson is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in Thin Air Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Apeiron Review, Relief Journal Magazine, St. Katherine Review, Rock & Sling and Ruminate Magazine, among others. She has published two books, “Nearly Orthodox” and “Garden in the East.”
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