Thursday, July 2, 2009

The (broken) heart of the matter

I, with my 44-34-46 body, will begin ballet next week. I now face the purchase of dance clothes, risking the criticism of my body by shopkeepers and teachers. I have another artist interested in photographing me, just as I am, without makeup and without clothing, and right now I can't imagine why anyone thinks I am beautiful.

My eyebrows and lashes are white-blonde, my hair is overlong and wavy red, my skin is freckly in places. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Yet I don't want to change anything, because I know how stupid I would look with shorter hair of another color and that even at my thinnest (and least happy), my thighs were still thick and my tummy rounded and therefore eating even more salads won't make me slimmer. I say "No" to the "obey!" messages I see around, and like myself, in my secret heart, pretty well; I mistrust others and assume they are "just being nice" or that they want to photograph me because my body is abnormal and, therefore, interesting. It's harder for me to admit that I'm still not wholly accepting and celebrating my body than it is to acknowledge that I can't ever fulfill an ideal. I'm too fat for Modigliani and too thin for Rubens. I'm nowhere.

I want acceptance and affirmation so much. I dread being sloppy, stretching the definition of "beauty" until it breaks into two meaningless syllables. I hate the way I push myself and the voice I thought vanquished telling me "no, harder, more, faster, no." I hate that I listen to it and can't make it go away right now. I want to get it right.

Telling you all this probably sounds like I'm fishing for compliments. I'm not and I don't; I used to, sometimes, and no one ever bit.

The enemy isn't in magazines or on TV. It's not "the patriarchy" or another such socio-political bogeyman. It doesn't motivate me to buy products or services to make myself over. I'm still not sure that I have the right to order my life as I choose, to seek pleasure in my flesh, to decide for myself what I will do, wear, believe, and say.

Inside me, there's still a little red-haired girl in a blue dress and oxblood-colored shoes, wanting her daddy to love her, say he's proud of her, tell her she's pretty and perfect just as she is. I am ashamed of her and want her to stop, even as I cry her tears.

"Fathers, be good to your daughters." Please.

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