Yesterday I was at my cousin's birthday party. A few of her friends came; emaciated 16 & 17-year-old girls in microscopic bikinis, painfully self-aware, practicing -- unsuccessfully -- an air of sexy nonchalance. They waded gingerly into the pool, careful not to wet their bleach-blonde, flat-ironed hair, while the rest of us pretended not to notice. I had brought a bathing suit with me, but I wasn't about to join them. I am not fat. But I'm not 16 anymore, either.
When I look at my body now, I don't hate it like I used to. Poor body! I think instead. You have endured horrors, and it was not your fault.
Even after everything that's happened, when I ask my legs to walk, they walk. When I ask my arms to reach, they reach. When I ask my hands to grasp, they will -- mostly -- grasp. My heart keeps beating, too, without my needing to ask at all; my blood flows, my breath goes in, and back out again. Much obliged, heart! Much obliged, lungs!
And, considering what I've been through, if my insides are offended or afraid of things that may seem harmless, (Banana? Lettuce? Sesame?) can I really be angry about it? If my throat begins to close at the smell of strawberries or the taste of stale, mildewed air or the sight of a narrow alley or the near proximity of a pregnant belly, can I really say "Don't be such a sissy!?"
I think I cannot.
This body has performed miracles, too: it has allowed me pleasure when I did not think it possible, and it has carried two children, even if not for very long. It did the best it could, under the circumstances, and I find I cannot blame it if the work could not quite be completed the way I would have liked. Perhaps someday it will be able to; or perhaps it won't. We will find our peace in the knowing, eventually, either way. But in the meantime, I cannot bring myself to resent the fleshy softness of my hips, or the curve of my stomach, definitely a woman's now, at 26, and not a girl's, below which, hidden and pale and unobtrusive as they are, linger stretchmarks of which I am inordinately proud.
And so I end up thinking to myself, God bless those girls, and the untried, elfin beauty of their bodies and their youth. I have been through too much with my own body -- good and bad -- to even dream of trading it for anything else.
And I am comfortable, at last.