Whenever I Hate My Body, I Get Naked

Being naked feels so good that I half expect it to show up as the latest Gwenyth Paltrow-backed panacea on Goop.

My body is my body is my body is my body.

On most days, I love my body. I did not come by this love naturally, or maybe I did and the world forced me to unlearn it — to replace that love with a disgust towards the bag of skin I carry, or that carries me.

The love I feel toward my body is a decided choice that has required dedicated practice. I decided to love my body somewhere around the time I started gaining (even more) weight.

The weight came first. Then the love. Then even more weight.

I have challenged myself to allow myself to like my body, even and especially when the world has told me that I should not. I played the game for too long. Fifteen years was enough time for me to play the game, to constantly strive for the perfect body, before I realized the whole thing was bullshit. It was like I woke up on the morning of my twelfth birthday and knew, “Your body is garbage. You are garbage. Fix your body.”

I tried in vain for fifteen years to fix my body. It was never enough. My thighs stubbornly touched, no matter what I did. I was always too large, my flesh too unruly. Now, when I look back at those pictures, all I see is the skinny bitch I once was.

I do not miss her. She was not happy.

By age twenty-seven, I was done. I gained weight. I’m sure it was partially due to the relief of leaving New York. Back home in Chicago, I felt like I could breathe again. Breathe and eat. I enjoyed it.

"My body is my body, and the world, through its limited vision, has not yet figured out a way to accommodate me."

I enjoyed it, and I got fat. And I do not care. Every once in a while, my family will try to “solve the problem of my body,” to quote Roxane Gay. I always respond the same way.

“I don’t know why you think I care what you think about my body,” I say.

I wear a lot of leggings because they’re comfortable. I don’t have to worry about the waistband relenting under the rolls of my flesh. Leggings, fit and flare dresses, and a cardigan. This is my uniform. It’s comfortable — except on the days when I have too many shots of espresso or too large a meal. Then, it's a prison of indigestion.

There is one way that I can always find comfort in my body, without fail. I drop my cardigan on the floor, pull my dress over my head, and wrestle free from my leggings, which somehow constrict into a vice grip around my thighs, calves, and ankles like a Chinese finger trap from hell (you know what I’m talking about, everyone who has ever worn leggings).

I haven’t done the math on the way that my rolls and bulges disappear, but the change is pretty staggering. Dropping trou is a trick I use to remind myself that my body is not the problem. My body is my body, and the world, through its limited vision, has not yet figured out a way to accommodate me.

When I’m naked, I feel different ways. Some days I feel like a Botticelli, some days I feel like a sexy, dumpy baby. Even when I am naked, my frame of reference is limited. I have not seen too many positive, mainstream depictions of bodies like mine.

I love my body but I still exist in the world. I know that the world hates my body, and it hates me for allowing this to happen. I wish the world would find something better to do with its time than have opinions about my body, but here we are. And as much as I can remind myself that I don’t need the world's approval — and the world didn’t ever fully give it to me, not matter how thin I was— I am human.

More specifically, I am a human who was raised as a girl, who like all girls, was told to be small.

I am not small now, in my body or my opinions. But I am still vulnerable to the poison that we’re all given about our bodies.

I am fat, and I don’t care that it means that my mother looks at me like I’ve broken the sacred covenant — except that sometimes I do care. Sometimes I look at thin women, and I think, “They have it so easy.” Even though I know that they don’t — or at least, their thinness has not automatically liberated them from the prison of projected body images.

When I feel myself being pulled back into caring what people think about my body or its size, I hop into my birthday suit because it is something else that I am not supposed to do. Society tells us that we are are not supposed to be naked, and that we are not supposed to let our bodies be fat.

Being naked feels so good that I half expect it to show up as the latest Gwenyth Paltrow-backed panacea on Goop. It makes me feel connected and free. Once I’m unencumbered by cotton and polyester blends, I’ll do a dance. I’ll eat leftovers. I’ll watch episode after episode of The Real Housewives of New York. I’ll wash the dishes or maybe clean the bathroom.

Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I think, “Girl, the world doesn’t know how to appreciate you.”

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