Body

Body Politic

I have spent the last 25 years worried and embarrassed about the size of my butt. What a fucking waste of time.

When Donald Trump won the election in November, I raged. I suddenly saw clearly that all the time and energy I had wasted on my concerns about that “wide” part of myself, on fretting over the times when my stomach wasn’t quite completely flat, on chastising myself for my eating behaviors and feeling guilty and wondering if I could achieve my sister’s size if I could just exercise more goddamn control – all this was the workings of the patriarchal system which, as one author wrote, tells us to make ourselves take up as little space as possible in the room and the world, to “make ourselves tinier and tinier until we disappear.”

After the election, I felt so strongly that I burst out with my sentiments to a (male) colleague over the copy maker one morning about a week later,: “I have seen you, patriarchy, and I say, fuck you.” (“Woot!” he responded. “Let’s go teach!”)

What if we could somehow harness all the energy and creative power that women like me have spent in this way over the past 25 years? It strikes me as a powerful explosive blast, a mushroom cloud rolling after, barreling towards the horizon, a firestorm. What a fucking waste.

Reflecting on my life as I aged into 40, I was encouraged to look for “throughlines,” those consistencies in a landscape of shifting phases and life circumstances that telegraph our center, remind us who, at the core, we are. I can’t help but wonder if I have confused a throughline of true self, this attempt to find some truth about “who I am,” with the physical quality of my weight and size. Look, I can say. Here I am, exactly the same as at age 17 when I left high school.

Is this reason for congratulations? Holy shit. I have bought the false bill of goods that says it is, that says, good job — through the wild times of your early twenties; through your adventures and risks; through the yeasty years of teaching and professional growth and grad school; through lovers and lost wanderings and birthing babies – congratulations, you haven’t changed a bit. Nothing has altered. We celebrate women’s success in having no physical manifestation – nothing to show for – progress, for change, for growth. Perhaps a task before me is to consider what is at the core of self besides, underneath, beyond my physical self.

They say comparison is the thief of joy. They say comparison agitates the mind. How might my life be different, if, as I close in on 40, I decide to let go of, to purge myself, of my impulse to compare myself to others—to magazine images, to people in my yoga class, to other moms at my kids’ school, to my own sisters? What if I could hold on to the feeling that having wide parts gives more space to my soul and myself, allows me to take up more space in a room, to bring more presence to the world, to hold, to literally embody more of the divine energy that, my online yoga teacher keeps reminding me, is our substance?

Butt
The author’s offending, mind-consuming derriere.

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