A Love Letter to My Body (I’m Sorry I Haven’t Written Before)
by Samantha Blaney
I’m sorry I haven’t written before. I should have. I think we both know that.
You probably feel like I haven’t cared, and the truth is that I haven’t. Not enough anyway, not properly; until now.
So what now? Do I list all the awful things I’ve done to you, thought about you? Do I document the heinous ways I’ve treated you, in hope of benediction? In hope of absolution? I think we both know that our love story will always be a little bit of a struggle. Can you ever trust me again after my neglect? I don’t expect you to. I wouldn’t.
You see, it all started when I began watching and listening and observing other women, women in my family and women outside, too, and women on telly and women in magazines. I think it’s been since the beginning of (my) time, and, well, none of them liked their bodies. So why should I have been any different? I think I was seven, when I would observe how my thighs would change as I’d sit on a chair. I was a little girl, wearing red shorts and my thighs would spread out like dough rising and then disappear as soon as I stood up again. I became obsessed with this. I learned the word ‘fat’, learned it was something bad, and in that small word was something shameful. I learned that my thighs, which were incredibly muscular from dancing and eternal summers on my bicycle in my hometown, were too big for me, and yet I as a girl, was becoming smaller.
Then I developed breasts and that’s where a lot of the trouble started, and I became overtly sexualised by my peers, girls and boys, by strangers in the street, by older men. I was thirteen when the cars started tooting, when lads would jeer, and I would be given free bus rides by a bus driver that I now recognise was a hebephile, and a terrible driver. I was taught that I had the type of body that was sexy, and yet I was a child and didn’t feel very sexy. So, I’ll be honest with you, I hated you. You brought me attention that I never asked for. I know now, that you weren’t to blame. That there were bigger powers at play, that this was, at times, learned behaviour, that I had been trained not to like you, not to value you, to want to change you. I had been brought up by a society that needed me to hate myself in order to sell me products, to keep me hungry (literally and metaphorically) for a more perfect body,
to buy the pills,
the fake tan
the hair dye
the gym memberships
the whole idea of it seems crazy now when I write it down. I would edit myself until there wasn’t a story left. Until I was just a word: body. I convinced myself that I could be a better person, that I would like you more, but only if I could change you. But we both know that you cannot truly love something or someone if you want them to change. You love them or you don’t. I didn’t love you. Not then. I wish I had. I’m glad I learned to, and I’m sorry it took so long.
“Do I list all the awful things I’ve done to you, thought about you? Do I document the heinous ways I’ve treated you, in hope of benediction? In hope of absolution?”
It must have been so painful for you. You have always been so dutiful to me. Fighting infections, rebuilding muscles, healing, healing, healing me every time something went wrong. You ask for nothing in return – you never have, and historically I have treated you worse that I have ever treated any other human on this planet, even those who deserved it. I failed to see all you do, all you are, all you could be. You are not surface and breasts and arse, you are not just limbs, teeth and ears. You are tissue and binding and nerve and bone, ligament, cells you are
You always welcomed me back.
You cannot be limited to a dress size; a mere number doesn’t do you justice; you cannot be summed up in such a petty way. You are a continent, no, a whole world, no, a whole universe. Your intricacy and intimacies are intrinsically the very reasons that I have found myself so in love with you.
You are my voice, my song, my words can only be conveyed by you, your hands dance around the keyboard as I type this. You who can silence whole theatres, you who can climb whole mountains, you who could shatter whole myths, you are the whole one.
And I was the one you were waiting for, the one who would wear a bikini disregarding the rolls of flesh, who would always wear factor fifty sunscreen, who stays hydrated, who forgives herself for being human, who does her physio exercises three times a day, who takes care of her mind as well as her muscles. Who doesn’t read magazines, who calls out behaviour that is damaging to other women and girls. Who wears a crop-top on the tube in thirty degrees, who understands she is more than a decoration, a trophy, a goal.
I don’t blame the women in my life. They were teaching me what they had been taught. The beauty myth has its grip on generations of us. But we can stop it. Though it is heavy – we can stop it. I look at my niece, seven and gangly as I was back then, and she wears a swimsuit with the confidence and ease of an Olympic swimmer. I don’t want that to stop.
I won’t defame you any longer and definitely not in front of her. Because little walls have big ears and they’re soaking up everything we say and everything we do. When we say we are fat, when we say we are not worthy and when we hide the parts of us we hate to share, they see this too, and they mimic us. We should allow ourselves to enjoy ourselves, in our skins, our eyes should gaze upon our perceived ‘flaws’ with at worst indifference and at best, love.
There is no you and I.
What do you say? Can you give us a chance?
‘A Love Letter to My Body (I’m Sorry I Haven’t Written Before)’ was first published via Samantha Blaney’s TinyLetter, Little Love Stories. Sign up:
Photo by Libby Earland
Samantha Blaney | Instagram: @sammyblaney
Samantha Blaney is a Scot in London who, when not dropping her Rs in a bid to be understood, can be found practising yoga and writing her first novel. Her work can be found on Dear Damsels, and in her tribute to her grandmother on The Grantidote. She publishes Little Love Stories every Sunday morning through TinyLetters.