|Me, seconds before crossing the finish line|
of my seventh marathon. See that crazy
look in my eye?
I love my body.
This is not something most people say out loud. We’re supposed to hate our bodies, right? Or at least tolerate them? We’re not supposed to tell others that we like the way we look. This makes us vain, egotistical, prideful.
I didn’t always appreciate my body. I was very skinny when I was younger, all knees and elbows, and my extremely long legs looked like toothpicks. Or chicken legs. At least, that’s what everyone told me. It came as quite a shock. I’d always liked the way I looked. But when I was twelve years old, I went to high school. (Our high school was 7th-12th grades.) Once I got there, I found out I was gross to look at because I was thin and bony. The older boys teased me to tears. I’m not sure I slept through the night during junior high. I would wake up in horrible pain as both my calves seized up with muscle cramps, due to the 200-300 calf raises I did almost every day. Maybe if my calf muscles were bigger, they would leave me alone.
But these legs have endured a lot. I tore my muscle where the hamstring attaches to the glute. At the time I thought it was just a pull, so I didn’t go to the doctor. Now I know it was a significant injury, one that still causes me daily pain. Because of that tear, six months later I tore my ACL. Then I tore it again two years later and had to have reconstruction surgery.
After all that, my body still works hard. It’s propelled me through thousands of miles, seven marathons, and countless half-marathons, 5ks, and 10ks.
It kept me running through the heartache when my husband and I learned we probably wouldn’t have children.
It taught me to keep going even when things hurt, which made me not only a better writer, but a better person.
I overheard a student say the other day that she didn’t love anything about herself. This broke my heart. I couldn’t be sure whether or not she didn’t love things about herself because she truly didn’t see her own worth, or because society had taught her at least to pretend she didn't see her own worth. Either way, it’s unacceptable.
I am a flawed, fallible human being. I make mistakes daily. But despite those things, I am also loyal, and compassionate, and hopefully, kind.
My body creaks. I’m starting to get a few creases around my eyes. My calves are still skinny. I do not have a daughter, so I will never be able to teach her to love herself, to appreciate her body, no matter what shape it may take.
But I will say the words, so that when my students and other young girls in my neighborhood see my legs pounding the asphalt, they won’t note their size, but rather their strength.
I love my body. It is strong.