Reflections on: Body

I decided to stretch today. I haven’t adequately stretched in a really long time. It hurt more than I thought it would. I reflected on how I’ve been feeling about my body lately. I’ve gained weight. My clothes still fit, they’re just tighter. I’m unhappy with the way my body feels and looks.

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When I stopped moving, moving on to the next thing and the next, I began thinking about how much of a hit my self-esteem took when I was being abused by my ex. I acknowledge my self-esteem was nowhere near perfect before he started abusing me but I’d worked hard to get to what felt like a good place for me. But somehow he found the one loose thread in the fabric of my self-esteem and unraveled me completely. I hadn’t felt so low since I was a teenager and abused laxatives to stay thin. After I moved out, the relationship continued with my ex and so did the degradation. Even after I cut off contact with him I don’t think I ever fully regained contact with myself.

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I medicated with loads of Ben & Jerry’s which, while delicious, merely masked my pain with saccharine sweetness.  When I regained enough of a foothold to work again, I also regained some weight. Another fine literary device: not only did I feel like I didn’t fit into the world any longer, I also didn’t fit into my clothes the way I used to.

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Many of these feelings came to a head over the last few weeks at my new job. I’m in the world again: seen, acknowledged, questioned, commented on–I hate it. I’ve written before about my ambivalent relationship with invisibility. I long to remain invisible until I want to be seen and inevitably it works out the opposite. The other day at work, I had an uncomfortable moment with a male student as I sat with him at a table in a classroom. The rest of the class and teachers were present but I felt utterly alone as I noticed him grab his crotch underneath the table. Nobody else saw.

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I think now of how from the moment we’re born, girls are taught their bodies are not their own. Our bodies are legislated, penetrated, traded and degraded. I thought of my ex and angry tears came to my eyes as I stretched out on the floor, knees in the air. I thought of how men and even teenage boys can violate us without even touching us–from across a room, with a look, a gesture, underneath a table.

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After escaping overt abuse, I became more aware of my looks, how I dressed, what “message I was sending” without intending. I wore a black blazer, black jeans, and a black shirt buttoned up to my neck yesterday and three boys asked me why I wore a suit. I’d give anything to disappear in jeans and a t-shirt like them but no matter what, there are the comments–about my clothes, my body, my hair. I keep trying to hide from others at the same time I’m trying to reestablish a relationship with my body–one where I don’t ignore it.

 

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