"Am I thin enough? Am I thin enough?" This question has been driving me nuts since I hit puberty, and this is the picture of my belly above. This is my belly after having two kids. This is my belly at being 40. That's thin enough, right? Nope. Apparently not. I'm still under control of the messages that have been drilled into my head.
The message I heard from my mother was about the value of being pretty, and by being pretty she meant thin. She wanted me to become a model, and models are scary thin, but it didn't matter what you did to your body. The important part was to make money being thin and pretty, either by working as a walking clothes hanger or by marrying a wealthy man who, naturally, wouldn't marry you if you were fat.
Back when I was growing up in Soviet Union, there weren't many commercial ways to brainwash women into dieting like American women were brainwashed (still are). Though Russia has caught up plenty by now. Back in my days of becoming a woman it was women teaching other women what to do. How to drink only buttermilk for a whole week to lose weight. How to smear on your face any fruit or vegetable peelings that you happened to have in the kitchen that day (my mom would walk around with cucumbers stuck to her cheeks and forehead). And on and on and on. I was thin as a stick most of my childhood, but in my teens I finally started getting some boobs and some ass, and then my mother's wish came true. I was scouted out for modeling at 16, picked up on the street at the entrance to a theater school where I was applying to study acting. Lots of European agencies scouted poor Russian girls at theater schools back then, and so I went to a photoshoot where I was told that my ass is too big but my upper part was all right.
I was crushed. I never thought anything was wrong with my body, or at least nobody really told me anything like that straight out. My body was used and discarded and never discussed, but my mother confirmed this when I told her, and then later she complained about my body not being perfect when she would want to use me as a model for her dresses — she is a fashion designer and knits amazing things, though right now due to her bad health she hardly does it anymore.
Well, getting thinner didn't end there. My first husband really liked me being thin, and if I gained even a little bit of fat, he pointed it out, especially after Anna was born, all that pregnancy fat, and then once he flat out told me that my ass was too big, that he preferred thinner girls. Needless to say, we are no longer together though we're still friends, but that comment cut me deep and I still remember it. It further solidified the idea that something was wrong with my body.
Then I met my second husband and he made me very happy and I gained about 10 pounds. I was horrified. I started running every day and I got all my weight down before our wedding, only to gain it all back when we moved to America and where I couldn't stop eating because I could buy ANYTHING I WANTED. I got it under control again, and then I had Peter and after the second pregnancy had extra 10 pounds again which is really NOTHING but again I was horrified. So I threw myself into work and exhausted my body to the point when it started breaking down.
This is how much I love my body. I don't. I still hate it. As I type this right now, I'm sick because I wouldn't take care of my body. Because I work it like a horse. But back to the story.
After my body broke down, my mind went ahead and broke down too, and it took me 2 years of intensive therapy to recover. Guess what my naturopath asked me on our first appointment? She asked, "What are you eating?" And so this is how for the first time in my life I started looking at what I'm putting in my body and learning how to take care of it. I had my blood tested on lots of foods and I cut out lots of foods my body didn't like and curiously I got some weight off again, and so I was happy. Later I have discovered that what my body likes to eat very much what is now called Paleo, and so I read about it and adopted it as my eating regimen, and then recently I stumbled on Keto and squealingly decided to try it too. I even wrote a blog post about it!
WHY??? Everything was fine. Why did I need to do this?
Guess what happened. I screwed up my body again. You see, I can't eat dairy, but for a whole month I ate cheese. Cheese was falling out of my ears. And so when I had my blood tested, my cholesterol was over 340 which is crazy. What does this tell you? It tells you that I have no regard for my body, I just throw it from one thing to another like it's some appendage to play with. I got myself sick again and I had to cut out all that cheese and switch to a very gentle diet of only fish and greens and chicken and turkey and then some nuts and berries and THAT'S IT. I will be testing my blood in 2 months again and we shall see what happens, plus my naturopath said Miracle Noodles are great for reducing cholesterol and I'm eating those too. And guess why I started the whole Keto thing?
Because I have noticed that my belly started getting a little fat. Does that look fat to you? DOES THAT BELLY IN THAT PICTURE LOOK FAT TO YOU??? No. And what if it was fat? Why do we assume that fat is bad and judge each other on how fat or not fat we are?? Jesus, what is wrong with me? What is wrong is the message that's still controlling me and that I still can't get rid of, and I'm 40. I don't have to be thin. I don't have to shave. I don't have to torture my feet by wearing high heels. I don't have to wear makeup. I don't have to any of it to be loved and accepted as who I am, and yet today we women are STILL valued for our beauty first and for our brains second, and I so blindly follow this double-standard dogma and only now starting to wake up. What can I tell you besides JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. About time.
I don't really know how to be gentle on my body. How to indulge it. How to touch it and feel good (which should be a whole another blog post on masturbation and the fear and disgust of touching yourself we sexual abuse survivors battle with every day). How to let it sleep as much as it wants. How to feed it as much as it wants.
I DON'T KNOW HOW TO LOVE MY BODY BECAUSE I'VE BEEN TAUGHT TO HATE IT.
Enough of this shit.
I notice how I look at other people and how I judge them based on how their bodies look, and I catch myself at this and I cringe. God. I hate it that I do it. So little by little I'm working on stopping this. Stopping judging myself and judging others and getting off this crazy bandwagon of being as thin as a skeleton and not having any fun. I'm learning to listen to my body, to give it what it needs. I'm now doing yoga every night, and I make sure I have a whole hour to do it. I have stopped biking at home because I don't need to sweat and lose fat. I have no fat to lose! Yoga makes me feel good, both my mind and my body, I like doing it, so that's why I'm doing it. Period.
Well, would you look at this. Who knew it would turn into this long confessional. I guess I have so much anger in me, anger at all those years lost to worries that ate me inside out. What should I eat? What shouldn't I eat? Am I thin enough? Am I thin enough? Am I thin enough??
One of the things that is really hard for me to accept is how much Royce loves my ass. He tells me it's perfect. And I say, "It's not too big?" And he stares at me. "No." "But are you sure?" I ask. "It's perfect," he says again. The first time he said it I cried and I had to explain to him how much I hate my ass and what it means to me that he loves it as it is. He says the same things about the stretch marks on my boobs, and about my belly. I'm slowly, SLOWLY, starting to see my body through his eyes and starting to love it too. Baby steps, right? I'm loving my leg hair, and it feels weird, loving it, and my pubes are getting so long! Damn, I don't think I've seen my pubic hair for over 20 years. My armpit hair is starting to curl. And now I'm back to eating things that my body likes and not things that are supposed to make me thinner, like cheese (but damn, I love cheese so much).
Taking pictures of my body will be the next step. The pictures Royce took of me naked are so beautiful that I actually liked what I saw. I'm not kidding. It was the first time I liked what I saw, and it was my own damn body. That was 5 years ago, and new ones are coming for you to see. We just don't have a good camera at the moment. And I'm still working up the courage to share myself that much. But I will. You'll see my stretch marks and my lovely body hair and everything in between, because enough of hating it. I want to love it and I want you to love it with me.