Years ago when I saw the “Vagina Monologues” I was disappointed. I called it propaganda for premarital sex, lesbianism and masturbation. There was only one I remember finding powerful and just a few I found pettily amusing. One of the monologues, which includes statutory rape (but in a positive light because the rapist was a woman) deeply upset me. For a play that promotes itself as being against violence towards women, I felt it was almost entirely inadequate. But I was not disappointed that I went.
At one point we were told why the monologues were created. Because the author, through many conversations with women, was sad to discover that most women see their bodies as a place of pain and discomfort. She wrote the monologues in response. To validate our bodies. To remind us that they can give us pleasure. That they create life. That they are ours. Hearing that alone was worth the price of admission.
The older I get, the more I understand why women can feel their body is just a place of pain.
I cannot help but think of last Friday. It was the first day of my period (on which I now have terrible cramps) and I was scheduled to work a food demo. Of course, I went.
My coworker, Lance, working across from me commented a few times that I looked bored. That I was being unusually spacy and awkward.
I was not bored, I was in agony. In so much pain it was blinding (and I have a very high pain threshold). It was taking all of my energy to compose my face so placidly that he could mistake it for boredom. While I gave him a weak smile and said that I was just in a weird mood, my mind was screaming: I am in pain! Standing is searing and moving feels worse.
Times like those it can be hard not to feel like my body is my enemy, that it is nothing but torment.
The older I get, the more I understand why we have to affirm and claim our bodies.
Yesterday, I came across Lauren Nicole’s love letter to her body and Emilie’s love letter to hers. I wonder if men get this. If they understand that we have to learn to love our legs and hands and boobs and butt. That we have to come to love our eyes and ears and lips and nose (it’s so very hard to love one’s nose). That our relationship with our body has to evolve as we do. I’d like to think men get this too, even if the peace they need is not always as extreme.
For a while now I’ve thought about writing on how I’ve never forgotten this one line in Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies when she says that she decided that she’s beautiful. That she’s undeniably and empirically beautiful. It stuck with me because I didn’t get it. I didn’t get her insecurities that prompted it, I didn’t get her need. I get it now.
It’s taken me so long to think of my body as a part of and as an expression of my entire self, instead of as a neutral disguise that I hide behind. It’s taken me so long to feel that this body, this face, is lovely and desirable.
Though I think I believe it, I am still shocked whenever I’m told that I’m gorgeous. Because that Lindsey is supposed to be the hidden Lindsey. Because that me is mine. Because I want to control who sees her and who doesn’t (as I used to want to control even who knew my name-something my mother recently reminded me of). It’s taken me months and months and months to feel complemented instead of exposed. To feel flattered instead of threatened.
The older I get, the more I understand that we have an inextricable connection to our bodies that is valuable. That is well worthy of a play (though I’d prefer a better one). That sometimes we have to fight for. That we have to stand up for. That we, at times, have to give voice to. We must love our bodies because we must care for them, as they care for us. We must love them so that we will be able to accept and return another’s love.
I cannot help but hear in my head what a friend said to me yesterday: “How very material and physical of you!” In that moment I felt like a character in Atlas Shrugged (yes, I’m re-reading it, that’s why I keep referencing it). I am unashamedly material and physical because that’s how we were made to be. I no longer buy that I am a soul and not a body. I am both. We are both.
So, this is my toast to our bodies.