It's been there for as long as I can remember being a person. I came out of the womb, two eyes, little limbs, perfectly formed toes and round pooch. I don't remember when I figured out that I "shouldn't" have it, but at some point in my childhood, well before my teen years, I stood in the mirror, wrapped my fingers around my stomach, pinched at it's dough and thought, Go away, pooch.
I damned it for ruining bikinis for me. All the other girls had flat stomachs and there was 'ol pooch and me in our one piece. I damned it for giving me an inch to pinch. For giving gym class bullies something to laugh about.
I decided to punish pooch by dieting and exercising. I ran around the block in plastic-garbage-bag suits and did crunches by the hundreds. Pooch just hung in there stubbornly, laughing in the face of my failed attempts at banishment.
|Clearly, the height of 90's fashionable exercise attire.|
My pooch didn't let me get the prom dress I really wanted. It made me sensitive to the snickers at the pool during my Senior Class trip, which sent me running back to my room in tears; convinced that I would never be anything more than that girl, angrily pawing at her stomach. It made me leave for college, desperately clinging to a boyfriend from home who I knew wasn't going to be in my future.
It wasn't until I saw the movie Pulp Fiction that it hit me that it might not be a terrible, horrible, ungodly thing to have. I was just sitting in a dorm room, silently stunned when Butch and Fabienne came in.
Butch: You think guys would find that attractive?
Fabienne: I don't give a damn what men find attractive. It's unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.
Oh, how I would love to think like Fabienne! I wanted to leap from my chair, but I stifled it. For a moment, however fleeting, I thought that I could learn to love my stomach. But social norms and peer pressure pushed it back down. As soon as I saw commercials with models, read a magazine and tried to dress myself again, I remembered that it was undesirable.
|I would tear out the bikini pics and tape them to my wall. Telling myself that one day, I would look like this.|
I punished myself for an extra two inches of flesh that I had turned into some dirty little secret. Two inches of flesh that gave me a mid-passion panic attack when I would meet someone new and realized that intimacy meant removing my clothing and allowing them to judge me. Two inches of flesh that made me feel like I was supposed to be different, but somehow, my body had betrayed me.
The same two inches of flesh that my stunning-in-every-way young daughters now carry. I look at them and I see incredible people. With two eyes, little limbs, perfectly formed toes, and beautiful, part-of-their-wonderful-bodies, round, poochy bellies. And clearly I love every single inch of them. Every millimeter. Every sigh that they breathe out comes from a temple of absolute perfection.
It's finally made me realize that my pooch was never the problem. My belly now, distorted in shape by three pregnancies and an unquenchable desire for Oreos, is not the problem. I have never been less than, and my stomach, yesterday or today, does not define me. No one body part should ever wield that kind of power. I was never taught that it's okay to have a belly and love it. For it to just be a part of your body, like it's a fact and not a negotiable.
It's hard, but I need to learn to love this belly, whatever size it is. It's mine. I have to love myself enough that it radiates through me and shows my girls how to love themselves. They need to learn to embrace their bodies; listen to Fabienne and know that soft and round can also be desirable. My girls are listening and building their self speak from how I talk to myself and how I talk to them about MY body. I should be gentle with myself and teach them, in kind, to be gentle with themselves as they make their way in the world.
I'm holding my breath and biting my tongue while I try to undo that machine inside my head that tells me all the things I never want my girls to think. And hell, I'm not perfect, and it's not going to be a perfect process. I don't even think Beyonce loves herself 100% of the time. Sometimes a bitch just wakes up and gets tired of being Beyonce. I have to imagine. I am not Beyonce.
|Although we never have been in the same room together either, just sayin'.|
|We are the sum of ALL our parts!|
Bodies are different. Some are bigger, some are smaller. The individual parts don't matter. My belly, your belly. They are all just words we use to name similar parts of entirely different human beings. Why would we expect everyone's parts to be the same? How dreadfully boring life would be!
|"Yeah guys, she was a real looker. Average legs, average breasts, average hips."|
Who wants to be average, anyway? My belly doesn't look like your belly? It shouldn't! Because I have my own body, complete with it's own shape and dimensions, as do you. We all have one this one body to love forever. And what's that saying, "You always hurt the ones you love"? Our bodies, the things that love and nourish us; that rise and fall with us; raise babies with us; celebrate joy and bury loved ones with us; those bodies are the things we treat the worst. We highlight all the things we think are wrong, instead of preaching out loud and celebrating the things that we know are gloriously right.
My belly has given me three incredible babies that I will try with every ounce of my being to drum this into. I will fight and claw my way through society, screaming "You will NOT tell my children that there is anything WRONG with their beautiful bodies! " I will be louder than the messages that they are given, I will turn around those magazines at the grocery store and I will tell them about the dangers of Photoshop. I will provide examples of varying body shapes for my children to model and tell them that they are ALL gorgeous. I will be one of those examples. I will love myself harder than society and push myself to be louder than that little voice inside that tells me I should hate myself.
Tomorrow, I may stumble, but today, I have that strength. One day at a time. Like a twelve step. Bodyhaters anonymous. The struggle is real.
|This is my belly. There may be many others like it out there. But this one is mine.|