By Caitlin Kelly
This is a heartbreaking essay, by a woman writer, about 50 years of hating her own body, from Medium:
Sandwiched between two ruthless brothers in a household where verbal cruelty was a competition sport, I was easy game. My parents — the should’ve-been referees — were, instead, the audience. With the rebuttal they should’ve been providing to my brothers’ barrage of relentless brutal nowhere to be found, I had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. In the void of any contradiction, every harsh word became truth.
Few events will make you as deeply, weepingly grateful for your body’s health and strength than than the loss of some of it — or the potential loss of all of it.
I say this with the hindsight of someone who, before the age of 40, never saw a damn doctor for anything more intense (ouch!) than an annual mammogram and Pap smear. Since then I’ve had both knees “scoped” — i.e. arthroscopy — which removed torn cartilage (the price of decades of squash games, now verboten), a right shoulder repaired (minor) and my left hip fully replaced.
It’s a funny moment when — as I was being wheeled into our local hospital’s OR for my breast lumpectomy in July — the female, Hispanic (so cool!) head of anesthesiology recognized me and vice versa. That’s comforting, but also a bit too much surgery.
I really hit my limits in March 2017 when I arrived at the hospital with chest pain so intense I could barely tolerate the seatbelt worn for only 20 minutes to get to the ER. Turned out I had a 104 degree temperature and pneumonia I had been ignoring. That meant three days in the hospital on an IV and coughing so hard I thought I might pass out.
I sweated so much I was thrilled to be able to shower there.
I apologized out loud to my exhausted body, the one I’d been abusing and taking so for granted.
As someone who came of age during second-wave feminism and in Canada, I never spent a lot of time fussing about my body and how it looked. I like to be stylish and attractive and have always loved fashion. But freaking out about the shape or size of my body?
I care most, still, about being healthy, strong and flexible.
I love being able to hit a softball to the outfield and savored my four years being a nationally ranked saber fencer — in my late 30s. I hope to get back to downhill skiing, horseback riding, hiking.
Social media has made the endless and relentless scrutiny of our bodies even worse than it’s always been — policing our size and shape is such a useful way to distract us from essential issues like the size of our paycheck.
Shaming women for being fat(ter) than someone would prefer us to be (MDs only, thanks) is just another way to undermine us in a culture that demands insane “productivity” and only makes beautiful clothes for women smaller than a size 10 — when the average American woman is now a size 14.
Some of the most “beautiful” women I’ve met — those externally chic and spotless — have been ruthless and unkind.
So my definition of beauty, and human value attached to a body, isn’t only rooted in what we see on the outside.
How do you feel about your body?