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“Please make me look plump.” This character, Lavinia, states in the Apple+ series, Dickinson, about the poet, Emily Dickinson’s life. Make me look plump. Not skinny. My heart skipped a beat hearing this. This ‘rage’ to be thin, fit, svelte or ripped is all about now…2019. But in the Dickinson era, plump was ‘fashionable’. She wanted to painted to be ‘prettier and more plump’. I shake my head at this nonsense. What nonsense, you ask? The nonsense that women are constantly fighting their natural given body and image. So many of us are handcuffed by this, including myself. And how interesting that as the times change, so do the desires of body styles. 

The voluptuous times of Marilyn Monroe, the thin, nearly man-like bodies of the 1920s, and the ripped female body of the 21st century. How different they all are. What about the times of the corset? The time where women were expected to “train” their figures to have small waists, and large breasts spilling out of their dresses?

Are you familiar with the historical practice of foot binding in Chinese culture? Where young girls’ feet were wrapped, bound, broken and mangled in order to enslave them to sedentary manufacturing work? They were told it was because it would attract men and make them more marriageable, yet it was to keep them immobile in order to fulfill a need and duty.

Why are women continuously shifting their bodies? Era after era? Some obviously are more archaic, and others more shaped by societal norms or pressures from outside marketing, sex and fashion.

I sat thinking. Just like a ping pong ball in my head. Currently in late 2019, body positivity is a large theme, yet 6-pack abs, and yoga-grams flood the news feed. My brain bounces from side to side. Some days in one mind-set and other days the opposite. 

Your body is beautiful, exactly the way it is. A mantra weaving in and out of my head, and often ignored. No changes needed it says. Your beauty is inside, not out. Do you hear this? Bounce. Strength is beauty. Your core is the foundation of your life. Work out. Eat perfect. Don’t eat. Bounce. Your core is not your physical core, it is your inner strength, your grounded heart and mind, that thrusts you into your challenges and your successes. Bounce. You just bent over and your ‘core’ rolls and rolls and rolls over the pants that remind you they don’t really fit. Bounce. I am more than my body. Bounce. Your body is your only body, take care of it. Bounce. 

Am I not alone? Is this a familiar game of ping pong to you? 

What if we didn’t own mirrors? I find myself wishing that were true. How would we see ourselves? When you look in the mirror do you see all your imperfections? Likely non even noticeable to others? Why? Where did this come from? Here is what I think would happen if we had no mirrors. We would see ourselves in how others see us, through their eyes. Isn’t that a healthier way to feel and see? Instead of looking into the mirror and seeing the pouchy, rolly tummy, stretch marks, hips, thighs, inner legs that touch (or don’t), teeth that do this or that, breasts that sag or breasts that don’t, wide waist, small waist, no waist, long legs, short legs, muscular or not…what would we see? Without a mirror we would rely on our loved ones’ eyes and words. We would trust them. The beauty they see, we would then see and believe. 

Can we not get to this place? What do we women have to do? Certainly stop portraying ourselves as something we are not. Showing all of ourselves without edit or filter. We have to listen to what we truly know, deep in our heart. Dig under all of the decades and century-layered doubt, marketing, sexualizing and profiting and just listen to yourself. 

You are beautiful. You are enough. Be healthy first in your heart and mind. The body is not for purchase, or winning, comparison or competition. The body is our vehicle for living our life. While we need to honor our body so it can walk and run the life we deserve, our body need not be a shackle we live in, falling to its knees; merely a victim. 

The ping pong game must end. Round, skinny, voluptuous, muscular, sturdy, thick boned, lean, heavy, pear, apple, or any other fruit society decides a women’s body should be referred…can and will end. 

We have the power. We must honor our body as it is, celebrate our sister’s bodies and love ourselves for who we are, not for what we see in the mirror. Get rid of that mirror and feel the freedom all of us women deserve.

 

Summer J Friedmann, IBCLC