Yesterday I wore a tank top.
Well, to be fair, I was in pyjamas all day, for Sunday chores and because I didn’t want or need to leave the house at all. (Emphasis on the want.) It was the middle of the afternoon before I realized I’d been wearing a tank top the whole day, without another shirt over the top to cover my arms.
My stomach turned over, and I felt a familiar bite of shame and self-disgust. Body loathing’s been with me since I was about eight, and even running hasn’t washed away the last vestiges of it. It’s insidious, hating your physical container, and the Photoshop-mutants all over the media we’re saturated in doesn’t make it any easier. I’m thirty-seven this year, so that makes almost three decades I’ve been at war with my own body. Or, mostly at war, slowly coming to an armed detente.
Every so often I get the urge for more tattoos, partly because of the endorphin rush and partly because once there’s ink in the flesh, I finally feel like it’s mine. For a very long time my body was not my own, it belonged to whoever had the power to do things to me, and those scars–and the disassociation that becomes necessary when you’re helpless and violated–run deep. Right now I have the huge involved back piece, and the tiger and dragon on my hips, and the scorpion, defending certain places. My back, so I can see what’s behind me, the scorpion as gatekeeper, tiger and dragon to keep the balance. Phoenix and crows, tree and spiderwebs, they all mean something deep and protective.
Therapy helped, of course. Running helps. Still, I wonder who I’d be if I could wear a tank top without feeling ashamed of the perfectly reasonable, perfectly healthy, reasonably perfect body I have for this go-round. I hope like hell my own children will never feel this way, that I’ve managed to raise them to be proud of their beauty. Even if I can’t see any beauty I possess 98% of the time.
Mostly, I feel like a hideously ugly monster. But at least yesterday, I resisted the urge to put on a cover-up. It was too warm for one, and my natural intransigence made me dig in my heels. I realized I could wear a tank top inside my own damn house no matter how ugly I am, and it helped. A little.
A small victory, but I’ll take it. Hopefully it’s a landmark on the road to peace.