(This is an ongoing story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)
Here’s how I feel about my body: I hate my legs and my arms and I have for as long as I can remember.
I hate them because they’re fleshy and thick, and no matter what I do – no matter what I’ve done – they don’t change. I’ve tried to run (which gives me shin splints) and have embarked on every imaginable weight-training regimen. Parts of my body respond, but not my thick extremities.
When I was in my early 20s, I remember sitting on the living room floor in my mother’s condo and pulling at the skin on my inner thigh, explaining to her that if only there were a way to cleave this fat and stitch my leg back together, I might finally have a shot at true happiness.
I don’t think liposuction had been invented by then, so my mother, who has always had slim, feminine legs, simply said, “I wish there was something I could do for you.” That may have been the most understanding thing she’d ever said to me.
The young woman sitting on that floor pulling at her thigh was 5’6” and 135 lbs, (perhaps the slimmest I’ve ever been in my life). Still, she hated her legs.
I didn’t start hating my arms until later, in my 30s, when I was pregnant and the whole rest of me was so misshapen and rotund that only a pair of sleek, muscled arms would signal me as expecting, rather than obese. But I didn’t have those arms. Mine were soft and flabby, making the whole of me look all the more dumpy. I interviewed birthing doulas and rejected a woman simply on the basis of her musculature, afraid that I might resent her arms and end up hating her.
Even now, with at least half my life behind me, somewhere in my heart I still believe that if my arms were toned and cut, my life would have turned out better.
My feet, on the other hand, have never failed me.
I don’t want to sound conceited, but I have good feet. Aside from a lack of obvious deformities – no bunions or hammertoes – they’re a pleasing shape and texture. My feet are not drop dead gorgeous, but there’s not a thing wrong with them and, with a little polish, they’re really very pretty.
Aside from their physical prowess, my feet are an abiding source of pleasure. I don’t like getting a massage, but I love having my feet rubbed. It’s like a Xanax for me – all my troubles melt away.
Given this ardor and appreciation, I feel like what’s happened with my foot over the past six months is more than just a physical setback. I feel betrayed.
“I love you so much, how could you do this to me?” I haven’t said those words out loud to my foot, but I’ve certainly thought them. After all we’ve been through, I feel like my foot has turned on me. And I’m not just angry – I’m hurt.
The betrayal feels very specific. My foot does not feel like a spouse who’s taken another lover. It feels like a teenager who has decided to challenge the status quo. To go off and pursue some dream that doesn’t seem prudent or well thought out, a dream that may or may not be attainable, a dream that leaves a mother worried for his future and exasperated by his caprice. It’s a betrayal that goes with the words, after all I’ve done for you. Even though what you’ve done for him most is just enjoy what he’d been.
I want to sit my foot down and say, “What’s happened to you? Why are you treating me this way? You’ve turned out to be no better than my arms and legs.”
And I imagine it saying, “This isn’t about you.” And maybe some nonsense about having to change in order to grow.
At which point, stung and confused, I will resist the urge to shout, “Fuck growth” and try to figure out how to love it anyway.