Monday, February 06, 2006

My Body is a Temple

My Body is a Temple

The readings that address women’s bodies are all, collectively, united in themes of women’s bodies and empowerment. I have been able to glean wisdom from every one of these essays and poems. Struggling with lifetime body image and food issues is a familiar theme in my life. One of the major goals I have is to not pass the legacy of body hatred on to my daughters.
My mother regarded herself as fat and my father “gently” teased her for the extra five pounds she retained after giving birth to her third child. When I look at the pictures of my beautiful mother, I could cry in anguish and scream in rage simultaneously. She was thin. Not model thin, but beautiful, thin, and healthy at the same time. How evil was the seed that was planted into her spirit, telling her she was too fat when that extra weight was five pounds her body was wise enough to insist upon cherishing. At the tender age of twenty five, she commenced a lifetime of dieting and war upon her own body. My sister, Linda, and I were quiet witnesses to her lost battles with that five pounds and the other eighty pounds that were to follow; the fruit of systematic starvation upon the wisdom of the body feminine.
I witnessed the passing fads of the diet world, I saw the Atkins diet in its 1970’s manifestation, I saw the Liquid Protein Diet, the Grapefruit diet, the Weight Watchers diet, Jenny Craig, Beverly Hills and many others, too many to mention. When Linda was twelve, she started to develop curves. She was about to have a growth spurt and had put on a bit of padding and developed the curves associated with being a woman. My father made passing commentary about her weight and she went on a diet. She eventually developed Anorexia that sapped her of strength and vitality, reducing her to an emaciated 88 pounds. Like Ms. Chernik, Linda was praised for the self discipline and tenacity associated with losing so much weight. She exercised to excess and was unable to even maintain her own body temperature in winter.
I, on the other hand, was on constant diets and disciplined myself to weigh 120 to 125 pounds. I thought I was heavy and no one ever (not once) told me I was thin. In retrospect I was extremely thin for a 5’8” teenager. I would look into the mirror and see an obese woman. I continue to look in the mirror and see an obese woman. Food was the enemy, put on the earth to torment virtuous women. I would only eat as much as I needed to stay healthy and not pass out in class.
When I think of the false image of feminine beauty as a tool of the Patriarchy to weaken women and keep them “in their place,” I am filled with rage. Our bodies are temples. As Christians, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, but, in another sense, our bodies are temples of our own spirits as well. How dare anyone weaken our precious dwellings. Four years ago, I started training in Shotokan karate. For the first time in my life, I have thought of food and exercise in ways that go beyond the limitations of beauty. Food is fuel. Good food will serve my body while unhealthy food will compromise my health. The goal of exercise is to make my body strong and competent to do good work. I am not beautiful in the traditional sense but my body has nurtured and gestated my children, it has empowered me to give birth without the aid of drugs or the intervention of the male medical establishment.
My breasts may be unperky, but they have nourished my children and they have done so gloriously. My hands are large and calloused but they have done the work of a man. They have helped to demo the garage, the hall bath, and the front porch. They have helped to tile the sunroom and countertops. My hands can transform themselves into fists. My fists can break two boards. They can also wipe away the tears of my tender young sons and daughters.
My feet are “too large for a woman.” I wear men’s ski boots but you really do not want to be kicked by me! As a matter of fact, the only people who are stronger than me are my grown daughters. I believe I have broken the cycle of body hatred and dependency on the Patriarchy to feel beautiful and worthwhile because my daughters have never been on a diet and do not struggle with body issues.


At 7:41 AM, Blogger Erik Mann said...

great post, i'll come visit again soon...erik


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