Bodies, in the abstract

So, I was thinking yesterday, as I bounced around in four-and-a-half feet of water. I was doing this bouncing alongside 7 other women, older, younger, fatter, thinner, taller, shorter, quieter, louder. I was trying and almost succeeding, at moments, not to feel ridiculous about, well, water aerobics… because, I mean, what the hell.

I LOVE jumping around in the water; I’ve loved playing in the water since before I can remember. Plus, these extra pounds I’m schlepping currently are easier to leap around with in the water than out. So, I was thinking as I bounced, and “tick-tocked” and “rocking-horsed” and “frog-jumped”.

I was thinking about how much space we waste. By “we” I mean (to generalize wildly but not, I don’t think, without reason) women.

And by “space” I mean space in our brains, in our hearts… paying attention to bodies, in the abstract. Paying attention to bodies that are not our own. Other women’s bodies; our own body at a different time; the body we think is ours but isn’t; the body we imagine being ours.

Amazingly enough, I don’t pay nearly enough attention to my own body in my own real life. My body has done, and does do, amazing things on a regular basis. But lately my paying attention to “it” (um, that’s me I’m talking about) consists of two things– struggling to do “the right things” out of guilt, shame, and duty; and avoiding truly, really seeing myself.

If you spend any time rabbit-holing around online, you might have noticed this wacky surge in articles and blog posts about body positivity. There seem to be a LOT of people women writing about their journey to loving their body, about rejecting the culture that says thin = healthy, end of story. At the same time, the amount of critique– mocking, shaming, degrading– of women’s bodies–whether fatter or thinner than the ideal, OR simply dressed in a way that doesn’t conform to that ideal– is pretty shocking; no, disgusting.

And I sometimes read it.

I mean, the Huffington Post? Bless its heart, it’s kind of a little sumpin’ for everybody– politics, insightful commentary, arts, and vapid celebrity blahblah— but woe to you if you keep scrolling down to the comments section because sooner or later someone’s getting called a land whale (which isn’t even an animal, pretty sure) or a stick figure.

It sucks, and spending any time worrying about bodies (generic) is a big ol’ time-suck and worse, a heart-suck.

I want out.

I would love for stupid body-snarking woman-diminishing anonymous commentland to disappear, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Why even read crap that encourages me– enables me– to waste my precious brain and heart space on– seriously– crap? (You ever been alone in a hotel out of town and you don’t have a TV at home at ALL and all of a sudden you’ve watched three hours of fucking Jersey Shore? It’s like that.) (Or insert generationally appropriate crap-tv binge. Game shows, Dynasty, whatever.)

NOT going there is the first step.

My job? Recognize when the internet rabbit-hole is turning into a spiderweb.


4 thoughts on “Bodies, in the abstract

  1. It seems to me as I age, more rapidly some days than others, that the kind of body awareness to have is whether or not your own body is performing, or serving you the way you would like.What this is depends on your goals. I, for example want to get my body back to where I can comfortably go for a multiple hour hike. Realistically therefore I need to loose weight (fat) that doesn’t help me walk further or faster. I need to get my legs flexible and strong enough so that I can comfortably step up or down a 12-18 inch step. I need to pump my cardiovascular system back up to where I can continue to exert myself for a long stretch.

    I don’t particularly care if I’m too bald or too old or my forehead is too wrinkled, those things don’t help or hurt my goal. I don’t see any point in trying to look 45, even if that is a popular power image.

    I wonder if meditating (not just thinking) on what I want for myself in my life won’t kickstart my body in the way it needs to go. Seeing myself hiking, finding geocaches, and getting to the spectacular view at the top of the hill might make the day to day choices easier to handle and the goals easier to achieve.

    My surgeon says that with my new knees I should be able to ski or dance. This is really remarkable since I couldn’t do those things very well in the past. 🙂


    • Steve, I’ve been hearing from Sue incredible reports of your PT progress toward exactly those goals. Can’t wait to take walks with you around here. I know you are right on the money– it’s about DOING what you want, not LOOKING any particular way. Heck, yes, THAT.

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