I Think I Love My Body

My husband knew I was The One when he first saw me. I (with a roll of the eyes) chalked up what he called love at first sight to the way the clothes happened to flatter me that evening. He stopped me in my tracks, though, when he admitted for the first time after 10 years together, “But I wouldn’t have wanted to marry you if you were fat.”

Now, he’s one of the sweetest, kindest, most compassionate people I know but apparently all that’s besides the point when it comes to attraction and mate selection. And call him what you will but I wonder. Doesn’t he have the right to want what he wants in a wife? Who’s to judge our sweet palate? Here we plunge into the politically correct thicket. How many people are more attracted to overweight people than to those who’re thinner? Let me preempt the comments. I am not saying large – or can I say it? – fat people cannot be attractive. I know big people who are pretty. And yes, I do believe some men (some) do want “more to love” of a woman. I’m not saying that the large couple over there doesn’t enjoy romance and abiding love. Add to the mix of disclaimers the cultures that are less obsessed with the Barbies of the developed world. So I’m obviously brushing with broad strokes. But do slimmer people, among women especially, really do have a better chance at love?

“I know I’m supposed to hate my body,” the patient said according to Kerry Egan, hospice chaplain and author, in a CNN article What the Dying Really Regret.

“But why…?”

“Well, Kerry, ” she looked incredulous that I even asked and laughed. “Because I’m fat!”

“The world’s been telling for me for 75 years that my body is bad. First for being female, then for being fat and then for being sick. But the one thing I never did understand is, why does everyone else want me to hate my body? What does it matter to them?”

Sometimes [what other people want them to believe is] based on their allegedly unattractive features. They might be ashamed of their weight, their body hair…It isn’t always the media and peer pressure that create this shame; sometimes it comes from lessons at home…Some women grow up thinking that their very existence in a body that might be sexually attractive…is cause for shame – that their bodies make bad things happen just by existing.

Clearly, we want to keep grounded in a sense of self that does not rely on our appearance and does not put too much premium on our effect on others (for better or worse). Not to withhold sympathy from this woman, but I don’t believe I am categorically lovely no matter how I look or how much I weigh. I just finished saying in The Obligation of Beauty that it’s a show of self-respect to take better care of oneself, and that means inside and out. But the self-love this article talks about turns a corner where it meets death.

There are many regrets and unfulfilled wishes that patients have shared with me in the months before they die. But the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused — the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it – are some of the saddest.

“I am going to miss this body so much,” a different patient, many decades younger, told me. “I’d never admit it to my husband and kids, but more than anything else, it’s my own body I’ll miss most of all. This body that danced and ate and swam and had sex and made babies. It’s amazing to think about it. This body actually made my children. It carried me through his world.”

It’s the very existence of being in a body, something you likely take for granted until faced with the reality that you won’t have a body soon. You will no longer be able to experience this world in this body, ever again.

So they talk about their favorite memories of their bodies. About how the apples they stole from the orchard on the way home from school tasted, and how their legs and lungs burned as they ran away. The feel of the water the first time they went skinny-dipping. The smell of their babies’ heads. And dancing. I’ve heard so many stories about dancing…I can’t count the number of times people — more men than women — have closed their eyes and said, “If I had only known, I would have danced more.”

Precious, isn’t it? Those drowning in the sea of mortality throw us pearls and we find their wisdom to be the simplest things. This one’s about love at last sight, so sad when the appreciation for self and breath and texture comes so late. The self-love we are encouraged toward isn’t a stout call to self-esteem but a fresh vision of beauty birthed by the anguished promise of loss. Recast in this light, the distinctions between thin and big people diminish. We all have a strong, strong chance at love.

188 thoughts on “I Think I Love My Body

  1. Pingback: My Picks Of The Week – # 13 | A Momma's View

  2. Attraction is subconscious and, at least initially, an external thing. I don’t expect to get a date if I can’t afford nice clothes or if I can’t hold down a job. The criterion for women are different, but every bit as brutal. I think your husband was just being honest.

    • How can attraction not be primarily external at the start, right? As a guest said recently, men see her before they hear her. We don’t know people very well at first beyond their impressions. This answers the ques I put out, whether there was something legitimate to (and not censurable in) my hubby’s honesty. That is, that men (many who are like him) are not just being shallow.

    • I am wary of self-love. I think we are already full of ourselves. But the article relaying the sobered sentiments of those on the threshold of death was enlightening. Thanks for the read. =)

      HW

      • Wary of “self-love” too. The ego likes us to be into that. Self is the idol we too often put on the pedestal, but loathing our “selves” isn’t the answer either. Being honest, willing to hear the truth about that “self,” and repentant, but not excessively remorseful, is perhaps the healthiest narrow high road we can take and it takes God’s help.

  3. God loves us regardless of the clown suit we’re wearing, and it WILL be zipped off. So be a happy, appreciative, loving clown if you can, right? Thanks for visiting!

  4. Well…I’m a recovering restrictive anorexic, born of a mother who took amphetamines so she wouldn’t gain weight when pregnant with me. Whenever I visit, which is as little as possible, she looks me up and down, and if I’ve lost weight she says, “Oh, you look GOOD,” but if I haven’t or have gained a few pounds, she grimaces and turns away. I grew up being called “fatass,” so at 12 I simply stopped eating and started exercising obsessively. I dropped to 78 lb. “Oh, you look GOOD!” Certainly, we are in the midst of an epidemic of obesity that is costing many people their health due to so many comorbidities, it would bore you to tears were I to begin listing them. On the other hand, thin is not as healthy as it’s cracked up to be, either. I think I’ll go have a yummy gluten free shortbread chocolate chip cookie now….later….

  5. To realize that a whole good chunk of us out there never truly appreciate our body for whatever trivial or gigantic reasons is depressing. The concept of beauty is unreal and suffers from a severely distorted perception. Your post is very well written, makes us rethink everything we’ve been conditioned to believe!

  6. This is such a beautifully written article as it spells out everything in such honesty and thoughtful manner, gave me a food for thought for sure. It reminded me of this stunning piece of poetry by Christopher Poindexter “If only our bodies would marry the beauty growing inside them, it wouldn’t be so exhausting trying to love ourselves.” 🙂

  7. if …. ? ks

    we love ourselves, we love others, we love to laugh, we love to joke around, we find someone with the same likes and dislikes, if we find someone with the same needs … if we know what it means to give …

    what is love? can we be in love with two people at the same time? why are most songs about the pain of love?

    I guess the one thing every person wants is to love and to be loved but ironically, once you start looking for it you probably won’t find it and once you let go, somehow it finds you … . hmmmm … is love just ”LOVE” … or are there different kinds of love? is there a hierarchy of love … with one particular love at the top of the pyramid and a lot at the bottom of the pyramid?

    I think a lot of people get hurt because they’re in love with love …

    can love be defined with words??? or do you just ”know” it … ummm …

    gosh … i just think you are a very very special person with your attitude about your ex husband .. accepting his changed attitude about you …. now THAT’S real love …. ks

    • Apt ruminations in this age. And you are probably onto something, that we are in love with the idea of love – which gets us into trouble. I am not sure where you got that he is my ex-husband. But thank you for taking the time.

      • wull … i was under the impression you weren’t together anymore … especially since you had given me a ”like” on Love’s Stolen Desires … sorry … but, to accept thoughts from another person concerning the stigma of being ‘heavy’ … spoke to me of unconditional love … ks .. how in hell did you find that poem? it’s not listed on the index because it was a while ago … i think it’s great that you commented and responded … thank you so much. i’d like to share something with you that’s very special to me if you’ll allow me to ….. ks

      • I don’t “like” only posts that speak of my own situation or even values. You may share what you don’t mind others seeing on this board, as my readers look at many of the comments.

  8. Great article to share and what an intriguing discussion that followed! I think the most important point is the appreciation here of having a healthy, functioning body that carries one through the different journeys of life. To be appreciative of everything before it disappears is something we all have trouble doing I think 🙂 especially when it comes to women and our bodies…I certainly focus way too much on this!!! Great reminders to be more reflective…thanks!

  9. oHai there!

    I saw you recently liked one of my photo pages, so I figured I’d drop by to give my thanks! I really love your blog- such positive messages and great flow! ^_^

    I don’t send such a positive message myself all the time, but I feel peace after every post.. So I can appreciate and admire your words- Specifically I love this piece. Consider yourself added. ::smiles::

    Hope to see you around!
    -ZeeBam

  10. Thanks for visiting my blog – so I could find your amazing one!

    Beauty is such a funny thing. It’s sort of like money, where opinions abound about how much is needed, and where it’s so elusive. I’m always amazed when people think beauty is needed for happiness and for finding a soul mate, when some of the happiest most in-love people I know can hardly be called text-book good looking.

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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