Musings and Mirth
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.
Susan Cahill’s clinic in Montana has been helping families since the 1970s. Some crazy dude with the unfortunate last name of Klundt hammered every inch of her clinic, destroying the ultrasound machine, etc. Behind this movement, btw, is white supremacy. These people do not care about the amount of “brown” babies being born into this country every year but rather the white babies who aren’t.
From Democracy Now:
Montana Abortion Provider Whose Clinic Was Destroyed by Vandal: “We’re Disappearing”
A healthcare office that provided abortions in Kalispell, Montana, has been forced to close after it was effectively destroyed by a vandal. All Families Healthcare is one of just four facilities that provided abortion in the state. Its closure means area residents must now travel more than two hours to Missoula for an abortion. Owner Susan Cahill said the vandal stabbed holes in the walls, smashed medical equipment and computers, broke every glass object, destroyed the plumbing and heating systems, ripped plants up from their roots, and smashed framed photos of her family members before stabbing holes in their faces. Cahill wrote in a letter to the local paper, “This person took meticulous time destroying EVERYTHING that was important to me.” She spoke to Democracy Now! by phone on Thursday.
Susan Cahill: “People really need to understand how very important this issue is, because it strikes at the core of human rights, in general. And I think maybe part of the problem is that most of the people who still are providing abortion services are people who grew up when it was illegal and understand, and there’s almost like, ‘Oh, well, it’s legal,’ and so they almost accept it as a given. It’s not a given, and it’s going to be taken away if we don’t do something. And those of us who provide can’t keep doing it on our own, by ourselves. We can’t. We’re disappearing.”
Susan Cahill said abortions make up only about 10 percent of the services she provided at her family practice. A suspect has been arrested and charged with felony burglary in the attack. He is a 24-year-old man whose mother serves on the board of an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center. More than 6,000 acts of violence against U.S. abortion providers have been reported in recent decades, including the firebombing of a clinic where Susan Cahill previously worked in the 1990s.
You can contribute to the fund to help Cahill rebuild here on Indiegogo.
I really hate Esquire’s Women we Love feature. I also hate their Sexiest Woman Alive feature. Yes it’s probably true that they (them) speak for the larger swath of male human but it’s just so … small. But okay fine. Indeed, from my perspective one of the greatest women ever has to be Gloria Steinem, not just for who she was but for who she IS and what she’ll leave behind. Sure, it seems like a no-brainer that a feminist would choose a feminist to admire – okay, one of THE feminists — but to call Steinem merely a feminist is to miss so much about her.
Recently she turned 80. She had a few ruminations worth noting on her 80th year and one was that she felt finally free of the libido. Because of that she was able to really get some things done. Who can’t relate to that? The desperate reach is so annoying, isn’t it? Love and lust, those two awful things. What else could take their place? Imagine it. This, of course, probably only applies to women like Steinem (and me) who are unsettled in the matters of the heart and body. It feels like a quest of sorts. What is the end goal to that? Both of us, and many like us, prefer our freedom over all other things. I know I need a lot of time alone to just think about things. As I almost turn 50 I know this about myself. That makes me mostly unsocial a lot of the time. On the other hand, we need other people or we’ll go insane. I mean, even more than usual.
Steinem has given so much back to the world. She has taken very little. That is, to me, the ideal life.
Here are my top ten most admired – you have to imagine it in 12 year-old girl scrawl, optimistically written in my journal at one point. It never was. I never did. I was too busy admiring Olivia Newton John back then to notice.
That many of these women are tortured in love makes me feel a little better about the sorry state of events in my personal life. There are probably many more women to admire who ARE in stable marriages. They didn’t immediately leap to mind but I’m sure they’re there.
What a shame that the music industry does not find and promote awesome humans like this one:
For my 49th birthday I thought it would be fun to post a sexy photo of myself to remind anyone who might care, including myself, that I was still a sexy, vital woman who has left behind the 20s, the 30s and the 40s. Somehow you grow up thinking that these aren’t so precious — they they’ll always be in front of you, not permanently behind you. Women particularly begin to disappear the older they get. Why – because they are no longer fresh meat. It’s understandable from an evolutionary standpoint – young women, young ovaries, young eggs, better the chance for abundant offspring. There isn’t anything I don’t get about that. But try living in a narcissistic culture that demands we are “all here for a reason” and that we all get a fair share of attention, that we matter, etc. Or as Rust Cohle would say “I I I I I…” I personally don’t believe that “I” matters much. If you can’t fix things, make the world a better place, contribute greatly to the betterment of mankind there isn’t much point to you being here. You exist the same as every other living thing on this gorgeous rolling planet of ours.
But back to the slut-shaming. So I posted a photo that I thought was pretty. Yes, it’s in the style of the pin-up, which happens to be a favorite indulgence of mine. I have a pin-up type body so why not indulge in those fashions? I’ve taken many pictures and by those standards, the one I posted on Facebook was nowhere near as provocative. Once posted, many people “liked” it, many did not. A few men wrote me privately, thinking I was looking for sex. That’s to be expected. If I didn’t want them to think that I would not have posted the photo – meaning, I would never be insulted if any did think that. Their biology is working, that’s all that says.
My mother, on the other hand, had a fit. She called all of my siblings in a panic that I’d done something off the charts crazy – that I was about to ruin my image completely – that people would think me, a 49 year-old, a slut. REALLY?
She emailed me and offered to take photos of me that I could use instead. She said that this was way over the line and that I should be embarrassed of the photo. Well, okay fine. But embarrassed why exactly? Big breasts? Low cut dress? Flirty pose? Sexy look? It seems to me that a woman, ANY WOMAN, has a right to express herself sexually. Men have a right to respond to that sexuality, too, of course. It seems silly that women would think they could turn that light on and not expect people to look and notice. Our culture is especially keyed into this idea of the sexualized female. Our puritanism has heightened our response to sexual imagery probably more than in other comparable countries – but I have no way of knowing this.
I did end up feeling bad enough to take the picture down and suddenly I understood what “slut shaming” was all about. I posted the picture of my own free will. I didn’t mind men making comments (although I did remove one I thought was particularly vulgar) and I was prepared to own what kind of image it was. But I wasn’t prepared to have a war with my own mother over it. It wasn’t worth keeping the photo up to have that kind of icky feeling lingering. So I deleted it. But I’m posting it here on account of my rebellious/exhibitionist streak.