While I was pumping away on the treadmill the other day it occurred to me that I treat my body, or have treated it for the past 49 years, like each part was imprisoned for having committing various crimes throughout my life. Why did I do this to myself for so long? I do not know. Why did I ever spend a single minute hating or punishing any part of my magnificent, working, youthful body? I have no idea now as I ponder these nearly five decades I’ve been alive. I vowed then and there to treat kindly these bones, limbs and skin for the rest of what’s left. I felt sad that I had bought into the brainwashing by corporations meant to make us buy things. I felt equally sad that I had to echo womany mantras in order to reshape my own thoughts. I am a self help book now.
My body works. It gets me from one place to another. It puts me to sleep and wakes me up each night. It dutifully digests my food, works through my circulatory system. My poor heart pumps away minute by minute to keep me alive. My lungs help me breathe. My mouth tastes and swallows food. I have hair! I feel lucky to have such a faithful body that works. I know this will not always be the case. To that, here is a love letter.
To my feet: my toes seemed to separate when I was an adolescent from wearing flip-flops, which was all we wore. My feet, so capable now in yoga, taking a beating each time I go jogging. Being stuffed into high heels and various other inappropriate footwear. So ticklish. I love you, feet. You are rad and you work. I apologize for the high heels situation. No excuse for that.
To my legs/thighs: longish, with hyperextended knees – and three vertical scars from when I was riding horseback as a small child. My leg scraped against a chain-linked fence. 48 stitches. My legs pumping away on the treadmill have been through it exercising – jogging, dancing, yoga, ballet, barre workouts, the horrid aerobics, jumping, stretching, lifting, strengthening. For years. And of course, wrapped around various splendid men. What fun we’ve had, eh? I love you, legs. Thanks for everything all of these years. I’m sorry I ever wished you were thinner, longer, not scarred. I’m sorry I ever thought you looked bad in the mirror or hated you for not squeezing into tight jeans.
To my ass: I’ve covered you up for so long that I almost forget you are there sometimes. I sit on you too much, lay on you too much and on the occasion when someone forgets to put down the toilet seat I splash you into questionable water. I wear thongs, which can’t be all that fun. I’ve always wished you were much smaller and more shapely. I remember being a young woman of 22 and advertising a friend’s video store in a bikini (because he asked, and I’d have done anything for him – sadly, he died of AIDS not long after). These two young men drove by checking me out, and drove by again. One leaned to the other one and said “forget it, she has a fat ass.” And we both know that was hardly the truth THEN. 22 years old? I don’t think so. Now that argument could be made quite easily — but i would never, could never wear a bikini at all, much less stand on the sidewalk in one. I wish I had a photo then of my fat ass. I’ve had you spanked on occasion (kind of fun, right?) and in all ways have not appreciated you the way I should. I promise to appreciate your abundance from here on out, and I’ll never tie a sweater around my waste to hide your prominence.
To my stomach: it has been the worst thing in middle age accepting how you’ve changed. I was always proud of having such a thin waist for most of my life. After having a baby that changed. Since then, I’ve had to work at keeping you looking semi-reasonable. But each day I’ve woken up wishing you would be gone. I have always been depressed by too much fat collecting there as I age. But I can punish you no longer, I can punish myself no longer. I am vowing here and now to enjoy you even if you aren’t perfect.
To my breasts: You are the only body part I have loved faithfully these many years. You’ve never let me down and remain astonishingly youthful appearing, even now. Men have always stared, always prejudged. I remember working as a hostess at a restaurant in Marina Del Rey and one customer would come in and comment on the size of my breasts every day because he’d convinced himself that if I drank coffee they would get bigger. “Looks like you’ve been drinking coffee today.” I guess I have to apologize for the uncomfortable bras we’ve been wearing. The Victoria’s Secret bras are particularly uncomfortable but flattering. Perhaps I will gift you with a comfortable bra. Why not.
To my vagina: Oh, my friend, the things we’ve seen. The torture we’ve endured. The pleasure. The pain. I had a baby out of you. Was torn and then sewn back up. We have the period every month, even still. I’m really happy that we still work so well in unison. But to that, the libido has been quite the instigator. That libido has gotten us into more trouble than we can count, right? Starting at about 30, when the bio clock clicked into high gear, it’s been a sometimes satisfying but all too often frustrating roller coaster ride. Apologies for the many times we had to fake it. Apologies for the sometimes painful attempts of various acts. I guess all I can say as we hit 49, I’m glad I have you. It’s been lots and lots and lots and LOTS and LOTS of fun.
To my mouth: I promise to indulge you things that will tantalize and delight the tongue.
To my nose: I am so sorry I ever hated having you on my face. I always wished my nose was much smaller and not crooked and not so ethnic looking. I have toyed with getting a nose job for my entire life and if there’s been one body part I’ve been the hardest on it’s been you. I am so happy to have you, even broken down and crooked that you are. I can breath through you. I can smell. I can taste things. This makes me happy. So what if I’m not as pretty as most. There are worse things. I’m just happy everything works.
To my eyes: aging has been tough in this area. The bags underneath my eyes are kind of hard to confront and I know it’s only going to get worse from here. Every other wrinkle I can stand – but the bags…does this mean I will have to do plastic surgery at some point and look like Kenny Rogers? I don’t know. I hope not. I love you, eyes. I love having eyes that work. Thanks for helping me to see all of these years – and to have such great peripheral vision.
To my neck: Yeah, I know. It’s an aging thing. It shows there. I have always loved the shape of my neck, though. I will learn to love how you change and age, I promise.
To my heart: I have been the hardest and roughest on you. All of those painful breakups. All of that heartache. Oh, heart. You suffer the consequences of me and the breasts and vagina combo have wrought. Look at the trouble we get in and you, heart, you have to pay the price. I am exercising to help ease the pain. I am napping. I am doing yoga and breathing. I am seeking out joy. And yes, I am going to be CAREFUL where I next invest your time. I will try not to entrust your well being with someone who is destined to fuck it all up. Easier said than done, but you know. I love having you. I love that we feel so deeply, so passionately, that we love things — art, movies, nature, people with such intensity. You are my favorite organ because of that. You make me moody, sensitive, sensuous. I love how free you are with love. I am sorry that we’ve been through TOO MUCH PAIN together.
We are here together, body. Thank you for getting me this far. Thank you. Thank you.