An Open Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

Hello. It’s me. Although I’m not really sure where “me” comes from, and why exactly it’s separate from you. Maybe it’s the mental part of you/me/US, speaking to the physical embodiment of you/me/US. That sounds about right. Well then.

As I’m sure you noticed, this past week was deemed “My Body is Beautiful” week by the SHEs. And I should apologize. Because all week, I walked quickly past the tabling in Keefe, I made excuses not to go to the discussion on body image, and I “forgot” to send in a picture of you before the deadline. All around us, friends were empowered, excited about their bodies: proudly sporting “I’m Sexy and I Know It” shirts, pointing out their eyes or legs on the posters in Val.

I avoided all this because I thought they could all see through me. I was afraid that they, in the zeal of their self-love, would immediately pinpoint my insincerity, my lack of conviction, and my whole façade of contentment and normalcy would shatter.

For a moment, I actually considered—hypothetically, of course—which part of you I would send a picture of, if I had to.

Legs? No way.

Abs? HA.

Shoulder? Don’t think so.

Eyes? Brown and boring.

The tip of an ear? Hmmmm, I wouldn’t use the word “love,” but maybe “least-dissatisfied with.”

What about my mind? Why can’t I be defined by my mind? This body is just the collection of cells in which the realest, most me part of me resides. Why can’t I transcend this simple necessity of biology? Why must I be weighed down by my own and others’ perceptions of a shell that hides my true being?

That is what I thought last week, and this week, I still have no answers to those questions. But I apologize for thinking about you that way.

I know I’ve been harsh to you over the years—both mentally and physically. Control issues have always been a problem of mine. I regarded you, as MY body, as my ultimate source of control. I could make you do what I want; I could make you better, prettier, thinner, more acceptable—if I wanted, of course. So I did, because I thought it was what I wanted.

And that’s when I lost control, just when I thought I was gaining it. I let you be shaped by the standards and norms of others, people I don’t even know, empty faces in glossy pictures—all body, no mind. I tried to make you like them: flat, two-dimensional. Maybe the loss of control was a relief; I gave us up too easily because I just didn’t want to labor at the effort of being autonomous anymore.

So if you, my body, was no longer my own, and there was no place in this new body for my mind, then where am I? Who am I? Who are we?

Again, I have no accurate metaphysical answers to these questions. But this past week has made me think. I don’t think the conclusions I reached are new to the world, or particularly mind-blowing or enlightened. But they felt real to me.

Because, body, you are more than just a biological necessity or a puppet to be manipulated by whoever is in control. You are ME (like I said, not much mind-blowing eloquence here). As my body, you are an extension of my mind; you are the way that my/our mind interacts with the wonders of the physical world.

My mind alone can’t feel the warmth of the sun on a beautiful day (like yesterday in Amherst). My mind alone can’t type these words. My mind alone can’t run just for the exhilaration that comes from physicality. My mind alone can’t feel the deliciousness of stretching after a long nap.

My mind can’t touch the world without my body. I am not me with just one and not the other. So, body, this is me apologizing for all the hurt I’ve caused you in the past. I’m sorry for manipulating you, taking you for granted, being ashamed of you, hating you, not fighting for you.

I finally found a picture of a part of you I love. These are my/our hands.They are of my body with their physicality and dexterity, and they are of my mind with their ability to communicate and express creativity. I love them, and I love you.