A Body Story: Seven Confessions and a Promise
I hate my body. I really do. Something to do with being too long and too wide. Something to do with frizzy hair and a clout nose. Something to do with nothing at all, sometimes. But, like all hatred universally, mine too has defining rituals. Seven to be exact:
- I’m always fighting with the mirror. That tummy flab isn’t so flabby. My thighs are fine. And my left profile is just as cute. The mirror wins; as a consolation prize, I spend my internet hours browsing through kooky self-acceptance sites. Guilty pleasure: Gazing at expensive, designer clothes and wondering about the people who fit into them.
- Food makes me obsessively, maniacally happy. I’m yipping like a puppy for more, sometimes even wagging my imaginary tail at the thought of chocolates. It’s more an impulse to me than a normal human feeling. Which means I end up equating the food I love with a lack of control. I own this body, damn it — not this upstart rumbling stomach of mine.
- Conversations go either of two ways: (a) a fishing expedition for compliments (b) a scavenger hunt for implied comments on my looks. Option (a) satisfies my humongous ego, assuring me that all is well. Option (b) is a downward spiral, sure to make me snappy and irritable for days. Either way, the best things about the conversations, the awesome, funny people and their scandalous ideas at the other end, goes unappreciated in my head.
- The gym is magically transformed into this oasis where a failed, distraught me goes in and a fun, upbeat me comes out. A sense of achievement trails me from the treadmill till the next cycle of body shame hits, and I go running back to my yoga and my weights. Worse, the bodies of other people in the gym are mere tools of comparison, no longer warm human presences that share the same crisis as me. Life is a perpetual competition to lose weight, to look fitter.
- Conventionally beautiful people trigger an uncontrollable jealousy in me. I rage my way through glossy magazine covers, fancy television interviews and even the occasional Facebook display picture, both awe-struck and tremendously spiteful of the good-looking people in them. I refuse often to acknowledge that they have brains, thoughts and incredible personalities behind those enviable good looks.
- Shopping for clothes is an arduous task. It is the absolute responsibility of every article of clothing I buy, every accessory, to make me feel good. I take so long to choose, to stick with my decision and then, to feel that my choice is A-One Perfect for me. To not fit into my self-designated size, usually XL or L depending on the brand, feels like the end of the world. Just as fitting into a smaller size is suddenly so very liberating.
- I act cool about my body. I lie about the deep loathing I have for its shape, its size and its scars. I say the hollowest supportive things to people who struggle with their bodies, chastising myself with the next breath for eating too much. Fat jokes upset me and I tell my friends off for laughing at them, when what I’m actually worried about is that the joke applies to me. And in the end, before I go to sleep, I always tell myself: Tomorrow, I will take this body and make it beautiful. But the next day, my body is still only my body.
I confess to being utterly, bitterly shallow: to walking about with the shell of an ideology and never owning up to it in person. After all, it is far easier to preach than to practice. There’s no happy ending here: I’m not about to have a feel-good epiphany and take down my heavily edited profile picture. No, I will not stop going to the gym. And I sure am not going to love the body I see in the mirror, overnight. I’m too far gone for all that.
But, here’s my promise: I’m done denying what I am, a true hypocrite. Nothing I say about myself, about what I do, means anything till I stop and reflect. Until I look into the spaces between the hatred and the shame, open up the spots closer to love, and really see my body. It’s not a momentous, life-changing thing. Not in itself. But it is a start. And I’ll take that, any day.