Body, Detente

Little Darling 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.

photo by: Helga Weber
  • Today a tank top. Tomorrow, a sarong.

  • Sometimes your pain just floors me. I hope that writing about it here gives you some of the peace you deserve.

  • I so resonate with this. After a childhood of violation, the body becomes something to be ashamed of or hate. Best of luck to both of us as we come to an uneasy peace with it.

  • We battle with the self image of our body for a thousand reasons. Some, mental shrapnel remaining from a physical attack. Others, like weight we put on like Kevlar padding around our hearts to protect us from further heart – attacks. And a special war when random internal enemies threaten our calm and health. I have some of the second and after breast cancer and I went a round together and I punched its face, at 57 years of age, I got my first voluntary tattoo. I have three others; small blue dots used to align the radiation machine. The one I got because I wanted it is small, on my left wrist, just over my pulse point. A character I’m writing in a sci-fi novel is from Arcturus and in his language, the “v” shape with a small circle directly below its point means “now”. I touch my pulse point where the ink is and it gets me back to here again. Not before the cancer, or during some heartbreak in my love life and not in a future where either might reappear; just right now. I so greatly admire your writing on this blog and how it is so real and so in the now. Reading your weekly dose of REAL shifts me a little bit into funny or thoughtful or inspired. So pretend I’m buying you a drink and clinking glasses. Thanks, Lilith, for the Real, for the NOW you give so well.

  • martian moon crab

    I feel like a hideously ugly monster.

    we know monsters, you arent they, you are a Monster Slayer, and a defender… and a lot of other good things. Nor are you Ugly. Ugly goes to the bone, and you are a good person. Some days you can be downright cute!