One of the liberties granted to me by entering Act Two is that I’m no longer so aggressively marketed to as I once was. Oh, I’m still chased down like a tired fox by a pack of starving ad-hounds when it comes to appealing to my motherhood and my skin elasticity, but I’m not so chased down by every other cultural tag as I once was. And what that’s done is it’s freed me from being so inundated with the “2% body” imagery so prevalent in advertising targeted towards the Act Ones.
This ad-cultural invisibility has a rather pleasant side-effect of late. More and more, I’m coming to appreciate what I call “body diversity.” We are shown, as youth, over and over again, the narrow confines of what media defines as “attractive,” and sold on the idea over and over again that we must strive to achieve what is, for most of us, a ridiculous caricature. (Before you come down on me for “skinny shaming” or whatever, please stop. This is not skinny shaming. The clearance racks are full of name-brand size twos at the end of every season, your body type is sought-after in media, and fashions are designed with you in mind. As long as you are healthy, please enjoy your body type, and as long as you are kind and gracious, please enjoy the societal benefits of having that body type.). When you’re in Act Two and have journeyed through the process of letting the “youth cult” mindset go, you start to appreciate how truly uniquely people are shaped. Even with our American obesity epidemic, it’s still amazing to begin noticing just how varied we are.
It’s fascinating to glimpse a broad-shouldered man and realize those shoulders aren’t the result of careful sculpting through the gym or surgery, but the fact that he gives his kids whirly-rides in the back yard on Saturdays. Or to see the woman who’s maybe a little heavy-set, but whose calves are shapely and to-die-for, because she’s dedicated to walking her dogs through hill country.
In this process, I recently came to a new relationship with the body I have. It is far from perfect and it does not shy away from making known its dissatisfaction with the way I sit, the way I roll out of bed in the mornings, or the fact that I like cheese a lot more than it cares to tolerate. But I am coming to love it for what it is. And in doing so, I realized something that quietly shakes the very foundation on which many of our assumptions are built.
You have to love it to want to take care of it.
Who the hell wants to take care of a body they hate? Who wants to dress something they can’t stand in nice clothes that fit well, or fuel it with pure and clean-burning fuel? Everybody puts cheap gas in the rental car. If you’re wondering why you can’t stick to the diet or the exercise regimen, kindly first consider that you may need to first love the thing on which you’re spending so much effort to improve. And spending so much energy to maintain an adversarial relationship. Let your body-hate go. Love it as it is, even if you never lose another pound, or fit into those skinny pants. Love it even if it’s hard to breathe in muggy weather or it limits your mobility. Love it, so that you treat it kindly and take care of it.
It is, after all, holding up your soul.