This is the female form;
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot;
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction!
Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric"
Everywhere you turn, someone is making someone else over. On TLC, Clinton and Stacey tease and cajole. On Bravo, Tim Gunn opines. You can become Ten Years Younger, and the Fab Five return for their final season in a few weeks. Where women who have underrated themselves are concerned, there seems to be an overwhelming emphasis on being "hot," perhaps even "smokin,’" a word that appears to have lost its "g."
Sometimes I hear the people they work with say, "I thought this was all going to be about the outside, but things happened on the inside, too."
I hope that’s true. I know that for me, working on the outside disrupts many comfortable habits and patterns. Familiar means of coping with stress or sadness are not available to me now in their long-practiced forms, if I want to be true to my pledge to myself to take care of the body I have and not continue to run it into the ground the way I do my cars.
Somewhere inside me resides a demon who doesn’t feel good about being in a body, not just this body, but any body. Somewhere else inside me resides a fiend who has a very particular idea about what looks good in a human form and doesn’t happen to think this body ever has or ever could, at any size. Those two would cringe and hoot, respectively, at Whitman’s words. As instruments of torture, they wield shame and denigration.
These are hard words to write. I don’t write them to ask for pats on the back or reassurance that a form more Venus of Willendorf than Venus de Milo can be beautiful. I write them because it’s not enough to applaud myself for working out on the $10 machine. I need to record, for myself, the challenge of being at war with these dark spirits. They represent old attitudes, old relationships, old rejections. Why do I still hear them? When does the day come when the old voices cease? Do we simply learn to live with them and pay them no mind, turn an adolescent’s deaf ear toward them? Or is there some way to remove them?
I met a man who believed I could climb a mountain, who gave me for the first time in my life the feeling of exhaling that divine nimbus. I wish I could fully inhabit that form without being censured by spectral tormentors. I believe I will climb the physical mountain again, but I know that exercise is no guarantee of exorcism. The new form I seek cannot be measured in pounds and inches alone.