When did we learn to hate our bodies?

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I’m trying to find the line in time.

The point between then and now that explains the how –how our daughters can go from running with abandon on unselfconscious legs to running for the work of losing those last few pounds. And then some more after that.

I want to find the location on the map, the longitude and latitude that mark the spot when the mirror became a critic. Instead of simply a reflection of all that beauty that rises from the inside with the tide of a life loved. People to nurture. Hearts to hold. Baskets full of hot crusty bread.

Who taught us to hate the shape of a gentle belly still softly swollen with the memory of life? Or arms that give comfort, pillow tears.

Who erased the line between before and after this body bore kids? Who said that stretch of time wouldn’t ring us around with age?

Who taught us to be ashamed?

None of that for the oak and her honorable life marked down to the very bones of her body. Each year of growth, and change, and breaking, and reaching still higher for the heavens marked with ring upon ring of life that she doesn’t try to hide.

When did disguise become as necessary to being a mother as having children?

The oak trees bend and sing in the wind, their rings layer upon layer of life.

Each year and baby and change as beautiful as the body of the tall, wild, wonderful oaks so comfortable in their skin. I want to own my years. Trace the memories engraved into the laugh lines in my face, the dimples in my belly, the wrinkles that wink from the corners of my eyes.

My two year old reminder sits next to me in the bathroom as I apply makeup. “You so beautiful mama,” she says. And I know she means it. Because she tells me the exact same thing every night when we’re both exhausted and the mascara has smudged dark circles beneath my eyes.

Her skin is as flawless as her innocence. And I don’t want to be the first to paint over it.

Not with the baggage handed down from one woman to the next – the secret sigh of the scale – that whispers malcontent over a lifetime of mealtimes.

I get that healthy matters.

It’s just that I want her soul to grow up well fed.

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So I let her tiny fingers trace patterns on the tummy that stretched to house her baby body.

I don’t shrink away from my swim suit. Even on the days I wish it was several sizes smaller. We sit on the bed side by side and talk about our strong legs, she softly fingers the scars that line mine. And I tell her the stories behind them.

She sees me laugh into the mirror and watches my reflection in her father’s eyes.

How he makes me beautiful because it’s how he sees me.

“We’re girls,” I whisper into her curls and she giggles and hugs me hard, all arms and legs wrapped tight around the body I practice loving.

I practice.

Deliberately.

Loving every season of this body that has been gifted to me.

Standing with arms spread wide against the rising tide of dissatisfaction my culture whispers about women.

She whispers back to me as we’re sitting on the sofa, both in our PJs and socks, “Mama, you my vewy, vewy, vewy best friend.”

And I am determined to be that.

 

 

 

{Photos by the incomparable Mallory MacDonald.}

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