I took my body for a walk

This piece also appears on HuffPost

 

I took my body for a walk.

It was wearing a long white dress that clung up top and on the butt and then stretched for the ground, slinging itself over the occasional active knee.

Its breasts would not do real cleavage. Unless I hoisted the bra up. You have to catch them right. It’s this complicated thing. You have to sort of scoop them in and up. And then they slip out of position again, and it’s gone.

Its rounded arms were bared, because of the heat. Which is unusual. I thought, with slight dread, oh no, it’s only the beginning of the warm season. I will have to bare the arms so much more.

Its belly made a little puffy circle just below the belt, which was pretending that there was no belly, because belts pretend that.

Its legs might not have been long enough for real grace. But they were mostly hidden, anyway. The polish was chipping on its unruly toenails at the ends of its squarish feet.

I could feel that its neck looked awkward, so I tried to stand up straighter, but then I’d forget. I didn’t want the head and neck combination to look like a turtle. I thought there was a chance that it might be looking like a turtle already. That maybe it was impossible for it not to look like one, because of the construction of the head and neck areas. Something to do with the raised lump at the base of the neck, a protuberance of opinionated spine.

I walked my body past some men. I didn’t look to see if they were looking at it. I thought I could feel eyes, but it felt awkward to know. Almost as though I might be able to read their thoughts, and maybe they would be rating my body, and maybe it would only be scoring midrange.

 

I wondered if I shouldn’t have dressed my body in something so revealing. Maybe it wasn’t the right body for that. It didn’t have a lot of the things that other bodies that look sexy in revealing things have. It might look a little ridiculous.

I caught a glimpse of my body in the dark window of a laundromat. Its arms looked slimmer than they felt, hanging there, from the shoulders. Sometimes, though, they looked larger than they seemed, and then I would get confused. How big are they, anyway? How worried should I be? It’s hard to tell.

What a strange thing, to be attached to this body. With its jiggly parts and its imbalances and its oddities. Sometimes, as I move this body through the world, it feels like an assemblage of quirks and miscommunications—a stack of odds and ends; a series of rough-edged pieces that never got completed or perfected or even sanded down.

I’m not sure how I ended up with it. Why am I the caretaker of this random body? What am I supposed to do with it?

I have certain ideas about how it should look, and then it does something totally different. I have thoughts about how it should move, but it’s difficult to maneuver properly. It still can’t dance in a sexy way, for example. Even walking is sometimes not quite right. Also, I haven’t yet figured out what I should do with its hands when I’m at a party. I often clasp them in front of it, but that seems old-fashioned. Does anyone clasp their hands in front of them these days? Do you have to be a senator to do that, or at least a man in a suit? It’s unclear.

I took my body for a walk. It was wearing a long, white dress that I thought might look good on a body. I couldn’t tell if mine looked good enough in it.

Its hair wasn’t doing the thing that I was almost positive it should be doing. Instead, it was fluffy, like a fluffy helmet. If I could pick hair for the head of this body, I think I would pick rich, dark, chaotic hair. Thick, lush, almost-black hair that curls and spirals and rushes everywhere. So I’m not sure what to do with this thin, mousy hair that it came with. Another error, probably.

I guided my body down the stairs, into the subway station. A man yelled after us, “Why are you alone, honey? A girl like you shouldn’t be alone. Yeah you!”

And we both ignored him.

Which one did he mean?

The body.

But suddenly I thought that it did feel lonely, up there in my brain, far away from this body.

A girl like me shouldn’t be alone.

No girl should be alone, in her head, with her strange, difficult body somewhere beneath.

But then why is it so hard to remember that this body—this compilation of odds and ends body with its turtling spine and its inability to dance sexily and its breasts that don’t do traditional cleavage—is me. Not just a thing that I am arbitrarily in charge of. But who I am. Right now. In this moment. On the street. In the white dress. On the subway. And I am always changing. I am somewhat awkward. I am confusing and complex and beautiful in a white dress. I can bare my arms. I can feel uncomfortable. But sometimes I can feel completely at ease.

I went for a walk. It was warm and sweet-smelling, and the leaves were full of the anticipation of summer. The sun felt startling and good on my skin. My toes were happy to be free. Everyone who saw me thought I looked lovely. Or maybe they didn’t. But I did, anyway. Not the most graceful, but totally original. A little random, maybe, but also, somehow, right.

(actually, it looks like I have a little cleavage in these pictures. It’s an illusion.)

*  *  *

Do you ever feel separate from your body? How do you come together again? Some people said physical movement/exercise, when we had a similar conversation here.

Unroast: Today I love the way my feet feel in sandals.

A reader cake pic for the gallery! Yay! Send me yours!

28 Comments »

Kate on May 2nd 2012 in Uncategorized

28 Responses to “I took my body for a walk”

  1. Loren responded on 02 May 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I know this feeling. That I am ‘apart’ from myself.
    I just wanted to say Yoga. My joining point was yoga, and sex (not at the same time). Both things made me more aware of my body. More aware of what I am capable of, how I move, what makes me feel good. I discovered the parts that always seemed awkward & unruly were capable of doing so many more things than I knew or expected that they could.
    I hadn’t been doing yoga for a couple years but I’ve picked it back up lately and I forgot how good it feels to really know what I am or am not capable of. And to remember where the parts of me are and what they are doing there.
    I crossed my legs the other day and was suddenly actually aware of the way my legs moved.

  2. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 02 May 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    in meditation and energy sessions, i definitely feel “disconnected” from my body…or rather, “detached”…i’m currently learning to play drums to find a better balance between spirit and body…it’s amazing, you should try it!

  3. Also Kate responded on 02 May 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I was just about to comment that you look like you have rocking cleavage in the photos, but then you noted that it was an illusion. I will take your word for it, and say only that I love when cameras do that, instead of the other way around (when I think I look great and the camera disagrees).

    I know (via my own body image shit) that hearing a total stranger tell you that you look slim and pretty with nice arms in those photos will probably not fix any of the ways you feel about your body, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. That’s a great dress/belt on you.

    It’s funny, though – I don’t always feel connected to my body while exercising. In fact, some of my favorite moments while rock climbing, yoga and running have been the ones where I catch a glimpse of a limb doing something (a heel hook, or an arm reaching up, or my reflection in a storefront) and I’m just bowled over because: is that really part of me? That’s me? My arm/heel/leg/hip/whatever is doing that? Holy shit. I like those moments. Sometimes I also have the disconnected moments where I can’t stand my body and wonder when someone will alert me that it’s time to unzip the meat suit and out of me will step some perfected version – sleeker, more magazine-worthy, less stocky – and I will nod and think “of course. Here’s me! The me I’ve been waiting for.”

    But in reality, I don’t think that’s going to happen. So instead, I guess I should be aiming at the moments when I feel very connected with my body. Which happen most often when I am sprawled somewhere. Especially when there is sunshine and no mirrors. I would highly recommend the sprawling. Sprawled bodies sort of know what they want and how they need to arrange themselves to get it, and they don’t worry about all the rest of it. :)

  4. rowdygirl responded on 02 May 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    You look great..

  5. Kate responded on 02 May 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    @Also Kate
    Maybe it’s just that cameras always add weight, even in the boobs? Whatever it is, I’ll take it!

    So interesting, about the exercise!! I loved your description, as I always do :-)

  6. Kori B. responded on 02 May 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Loved this. And you look beautiful!

  7. Jess responded on 02 May 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    My spine does that same exact thing. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just spend a lot of time in a chair in front of a screen. I worry about long-term repercussions of such hunching. I saw myself in a video dancing recently and wanted to tell myself to stand up straight.

    But that didn’t take away from feeling like the rest of me looked awesome. :) Its important to look at the whole as well as the parts sometimes! Also, that is a great dress.

  8. lik_11 responded on 02 May 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    That dress/belt combo look fantastic upon you. I think you should catch glimpses of yourself in that laundromat window more often.

  9. Kate responded on 02 May 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    @lik_11
    Thank you! And I agree. I think I’ll go lurk around the laundromat…. :-)

  10. San D responded on 02 May 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    and, one day you will look at your reflection in the laundromat window and wonder “who is that old woman looking back at me”. Yup that disassociation happens when you get into your 60′s, but feel a lot younger inside. In my case, since I don’t have children, I have no societal frame of reference. I am no one’s mother or grandmother but look like both. Often when hanging out with younger friends, I am mistaken for their mother, and we all have that awkward pause when we have to explain that we are all friends, and I didn’t birth any of them.

  11. Ninabeenaribeena responded on 02 May 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    I used to feel like there was a thin, graceful, ladylike me hidden underneath the fat and the height (I don’t know what I ever thought I was going to do about the height. Chop a bit of shin off?), and this was even when I got depressed after a bad break-up and ended up loosing a heap of weight (I should write a best-selling diet-book called ‘Look into the middle distance and sigh yourself thin’). But then I read good old Fat is a Feminist Issue and I did the thing of looking at yourself naked in the mirror a lot. It really helped me to start to just *see* my body and not judge it. After not very long at all, I went from always being disappointed when looking in the mirror, to just noticing my body, not hideous, not beautiful, just there looking back at me. Now, when I have a little qualm about my arms or my thighs or my tummy or my blah blah blah (yes, even after 3 years of body-acceptance activism, I can have the odd negative thought about myself), I say “STOP! Just LOOK at yourself. This is YOU. And THIS is the size you come in.” I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear on here but I really feel I need to. You look FUCKING AMAAAAZING in the photos above! That is the size and shape your body comes in. That is the size and shape YOU come in. And it is heavenly.

  12. yogacathy responded on 02 May 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I was mentioning the same issue today! Mine is from childhood training! : P BTW, you do look good in that dress! Keep up with the yoga, and you will love your neck and posture! No more turtling! : )

  13. G responded on 02 May 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    I feel most connected to my body when I’m dancing :)

  14. Kat Christensen responded on 02 May 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    As an 18 year-old girl, I need to tell you what an inspiration you’ve been to me. These pictures of you are so completely gorgeous. Your arms, your figure, your belt-they are all perfect. The more I read your blog, the more I am certain that it is OK to be different, to not be model skinny, to have interesting (read awesome) hair. Thank you for everything that you’ve shown me and will continue to reveal.

  15. Kate responded on 02 May 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    @Kat

    This is such an incredibly sweet comment and I appreciate it SO much. Thank you for reading!

  16. Vicky responded on 03 May 2012 at 8:02 am #

    I have to agree with Kat here– lately I’ve been allowing myself to feel beautiful so much more often, “imperfections” and all… I’ve been feeling so thankful for my body, all it does for me as well as its natural grace. And part of it, I’m realizing, has to do with reading your blog Kate. So much of our mood and our thoughts has to do with what we take in: ranging from what we eat to what we read and who we speak to. “Controlling our intake” may seem hopeless, sometimes, bombarded as we are with messages of how we ought to be and what counts as beautiful. Yet we do have a choice. We can choose to be critical of all that crap and actively seek out sensible, powerful voices like yours. So thanks for speaking up!

  17. Phil responded on 03 May 2012 at 8:58 am #

    @G – Agreed! Dancing is when I completely lose track of not only my body, but my self. Well, depending on the music.

    That and yoga. These days as I practice more I find myself not only losing that sense of separation, but actively enjoying my body right after. That glow, that sense of vibrancy and ease – what a joy!

  18. meg responded on 03 May 2012 at 9:29 am #

    I’ve been having a rough week, body-wise. I’ve noticed I’ll reach a point where I feel happy, truly happy! with my shape. My brain and body will feel connected, strong, harmonious, instead of my brain sitting in far-off bewildered judgment of an unruly body that never looks how it “should” (yoga and dance often help me in achieving this).

    And then all of sudden, *poof* I’m right back to feeling disconnected and nit-picky. Comparing myself to others constantly, preparing myself to be disappointed when I pass by a mirror. This week, I blame an ill-advised haircut and an impending party with “pretty girls” (you know, the ones who always look perfect with long glossy hair, glowing skin, and flawless eye makeup – who ARE these women?? Where did they come from? Why are their faces so symmetrical?). I wish my relationship with my body were more impervious to these events and people.

    Anyway, I always enjoy reading your blog, but this week, I’ve been going back through the archives, trying to bolster myself up and get back that feeling of body-acceptance and pride that feels so much healthier and leaves me more room for interesting thoughts vs. “why are my legs so lumpy and white?!” Your words really do help – thank you.

    p.s. That white dress is lovely, and you look lovely in it. :)

  19. Sheryl responded on 03 May 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Relating to my own body is hard, damnit. Much harder than it should be. How did I end up inhabiting this, particular, body? Why doesn’t it like me more? Why don’t I like it more.

    Sometimes, though, I find a photograph is a great way to relate back. Those perfectly candid shots where I have an expression or am doing something that no one else does quite the same way and all I can see is myself. Those are good days.

  20. Emmi responded on 03 May 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    As long as I feel like I look awesome, I *do* look awesome. Anyone who disagrees ain’t lookin’ right ;)

    I just bought my own lovely white dress and am looking forward to rocking that thing. Also, a bright yellow maxi dress, and a bright orange one. I like looking like a pylon!

  21. Marie responded on 03 May 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I recently started Jiu Jitsu again after not doing it for 13 years.
    Ironically even though it’s so physical it makes me feel detached from my body since I am not used to it being strong enough to do all the things it does when I’m training. I also don’t have time to engage in all the negative self talk about my body, I barely even have time to be proud of all the awesome new stuff my body can do. It is one of those few things that silences my overthinking brain :)

    Also, gorgeous dress :)

  22. Rebecca responded on 03 May 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Beautiful.

    You, your brain, your body, that dress.

    I absolutely know what you mean.

  23. nyssnoo responded on 03 May 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    i always feel sooo akward in my body xP
    im going to prom tomorrow. and i really shouldnt.
    why?
    because im too short to wear a long dress.
    and fat to do an empire waist.
    and my arms are to squishy to go strapless.
    And because im making this beautiful dress ugly.
    but i wish we could switch places.

  24. morgaine responded on 03 May 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    I attend a school famous for its end-of-semester Naked Bike Ride. I’ve participated twice now – second time just last night, in fact – and something alchemical happens. Communal nudity is the great equalizer. Subconscious judgmental tendencies are whisked away, and everyone looks gorgeous. We are completely in our bodies. It’s incredibly liberating, and something I wish would become more commonplace. I’m tired of the naked human body being taboo. At Naked Bike Ride, flesh just *is*, with no value judgments attached. It’s just *there*, because everyone is equally naked, and all naked bodies are equally sublime and absurd.

  25. Birdy responded on 05 May 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I like what you say, Morgaine, about all naked bodies being equal. I volunteer with our local rescue squad, and when you’re taking care of people they aren’t always dressed. (Sorry to be blunt, thats just how it is!) It always hits me that, young, old, thin, fat, we are all pretty much the same in a way.
    So why do we worry about a little bit of fat here and there or scars or stretch marks or bumps or anything else? I have no idea. All I know is I’m okay at accepting other people’s faults but not my own, somehow I’m supposed to be superhuman. lol

  26. Celynne responded on 07 May 2012 at 10:39 am #

    That’s a lovely dress, and it looks gorgeous on you. I know what you mean about seeing a reflection of yourself that actually looks thinner than you feel. I know in the fact-driven part of my brain that I weigh so-and-so and that I am relatively fit and people find me attractive, and that in relation to others I am on the smaller size range now, but I often still SEE a really big me. Then randomly I see the size I actually am and it’s like a shock, as if someone took off my fat-suit-goggles or something.

  27. Adey responded on 01 Jun 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Wow. This piece has been established, in my mind, as the centerpiece of this blog. All other body image musing or convictions presented will have this as a central compass. I loved the concept of this post, if you can’t tell. And I have to add that you look lovely and …ethereal but still solid? The right adjectives aren’t coming to me right now but yeah, you look great :)

  28. Carrie responded on 30 Apr 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Very cute dress and look! Thank you for sharing it

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