Trigger Warning: Body-Hatred
So Melissa Harris-Perry (who I love) issued a challenge on her show, during a larger segment about body image and eating disorders, for fans of her show (those of us in "nerdland") to take a pic of ourselves sans makeup and share it on twitter, all to show that we (want to) love and accept our bodies as they are. I thought this was a pretty neat idea, so I participated as well.
I knew full well, however, that I was being ridiculous. I'm not much of a makeup person in my everyday life. Oh, I have every shade of lipstick and nail polish and I usually slather some on before leaving the house, but that's about the extent of my makeup routine, and it's a lot less about hiding anything or feeling ashamed about my natural body and more about, y'know, liking color.
That doesn't mean I don't hide my real body. That doesn't mean I love or accept my body. Not even close.
I've decided to combine a couple goals in today's post. One, I've wanted to explain for a while now why it's taken me so long to update my blog...and, ironically enough, those very reasons have been keeping me from updating and explaining my reasons. Two, I've been feeling a little guilty about my #barefacedbeauty picture. It felt like a lie. So I've decided to post my real picture here.
(*cue minor panic attack*)
Note: I'm putting this picture under the cut. It's not really nudity--I'm less exposed than most bathing suit ads--but it might be NSFW depending on where you are. And it's definitely not...attractive? Is that the right word? It's a picture of a stomach, a stomach that has gone through 15 abdominal surgeries, countless procedures, multiple tubes and drains, and 200 lbs of weight loss. And it looks like it. Each event left a mark that only very expensive--and, therefore, very out of reach--plastic surgery could fix. So view at your own risk, is what I'm saying, I guess.
Oh, and if you couldn't already tell? This post is really self-involved and self-indulgent. So feel free to just skip; I wouldn't blame you a bit.
Also, my post on fuckability might be good background reading before going further.
Okay. All ready?
This is what my body looks like.
And because this is what my body looks like, I spend a lot of time trying to hide it. I have expensive, painful binders and girdles to keep the bulges from showing as much as possible and give me clean(er) lines under my clothes. Clothes that are certainly not tight, at least around the abdomen, usually a couple sizes too big. I would never go sleeveless, never wear a shirt that might slip up and show a bit of stomach, certainly would never wear any sort of midriff-bearing outfit or swimsuit. Oh, yes, swimsuits...if I do wear one in public (which...huh, actually hasn't happened since the surgeries), it's one-piece and modest, skirted, almost always with a big t-shirt over top, even though I spent top dollar to get the suit with the most coverage, the most binding, to pull everything in tight and cover all that nasty skin. I don't dress for comfort. Ever. Unless I'm home alone, in my bedroom, away from people (even, often, my family). I dress to hide. I dress to conceal.
And, yes, this makes me feel dishonest. On those rare occasions when someone flirts with me, my only reaction is panic. I always believe that no one would ever show interest if they knew what lay under my clothing. I feel like a liar, just by existing in public. But I wouldn't be able to make it out the door--even my bedroom door--without the lie firmly in place. I am terrified of people seeing what I really look like. No, that comment about this post triggering a panic attack wasn't a joke. I was totally serious.
Loving your body, accepting your body, these are things I think most women struggle with, cis and trans* women alike. But having been TAB (temporarily able-bodied) and now disabled, I can say that the struggle is different. Even at my heaviest (340 lbs), when I was TAB, I believed that there were people out there capable of loving me--okay, you know what? let's cut the cutesy language--capable of wanting to fuck me. And I just don't believe that's possible, any longer. Not that fucking is all that important to me right now (my sex drive is rather low). But, like I said above, it does make it impossible to try and meet someone. I don't want to get close to anyone romantically, for fear that it might lead to a situation where she would finally know the truth I hide under the clothes and binders. And then she would be disgusted. No love is strong enough to overcome what I look like. And maybe this is just a silly notion, but I would rather that my first consensual sexual experience not be a pity fuck.
And loving (or even just accepting) your body is hard when you're never sure what horrible thing your body is going to do to you next. I feel like I'm in a perpetual war with my body--which is a strange thing when I'm certainly no mind-body duelist, and I know that to be at war with my body is to be at war with myself. But the feeling remains. I spend my days trying to appease my body, engaging in intense negotiations: "I'll do X for you, if you just let me do Y. What do you want, protein? Liquids? Solid food? This herb? That pill? Please please please don't break down tonight, please, just let me have this party, this event, please don't throw up in public, please don't pass horrible smelly gas, please don't pass out right now just let me get through this evening, please, just let me be normal."
What does it mean to love a body that ends up in the hospital almost monthly? What does it mean to accept a body that needs another major surgery every few months?
I'm told by therapists, by the books for people with chronic illness, by all the smiling, concerned women on my TV, from news programs to Dove commercials, that I just need to love my body.
I have tried standing naked in front of the mirror and telling the reflection that I loved and accepted her just the way she is. I ended up with a broken mirror.
I don't know if I will ever be able to accept my body. Forget about loving it. And, because I am nothing more than my body, I am not a soul trapped within a broken shell (that will be magically healed when I reach heaven), I know that what I'm really saying is that I don't know if I will ever be able to accept myself. Love myself.
But, for today, I will take this step. I will pull back the curtain, expose the lie, at least in this one place. This is what I look like.
Is this #barefacedbeauty?