This summer has been an exercise of body respect for me.
As I finished out a stressful, yet amazing, sophomore year at Mizzou that included lots of involvement and caring for others and not as much exercise as I would like, I looked wistfully at pictures of high school me in x-small lacrosse uniforms. This will be the summer I get back to that, I thought.
I felt, as my lovely friend Alise puts it, ‘squishy.’ I wanted to be the elusive ‘skinny’ again.
It doesn’t really make sense. ‘Skin’ is something we all have. It’s something that people choose to show or not, decorate or pierce, but it isn’t an opposite fat in any biological or anatomical sense.
But, it embodied the opposite of the hateful feeling I felt when I became all too conscious of my thighs sticking together as I sat in a rickety Metra train car, when I swiftly walked through the city and the small squiggle of a stretch mark decorating them. It embodied a strange promise I once made to myself that I wouldn’t go over a size 2, or my distress when I went up a couple cup sizes signaling in my brain, You are getting fat.
It’s summer, which equals a great deal of skin freedom in the form of bathing suits, booty shorts and crop tops, all of which I love. But, I would pick up my little high-waisted shorts and a fashion police officer would whistle in my head holding up a stop sign, warning me of all of the thigh people could see if I put them on. Or, god forbid, I wear something that bared a not perfectly tanned and toned midriff.
I kept seeing images of girls I knew, and some I didn’t, looking like they were pulled from a perfect beach body ad. One former high school classmate posted a before/after tummy pic on Instagram to proclaim her success on ridding herself of the dreaded Freshman 15 and spewing words of encouragement hoping that people would see it and feel inspired to make a change they wanted to with their bodies.
People, people, people.
I like to please them plenty, but why did they keep getting pulled into the conversation about my body? As much as people try to define body perfection or goals, such as ridiculous vanity sizes a la J. Crew, my body is mine.
My body is mine.
I exercise to feel strong, not because I want to impress someone with a toned torso and limbs. It’s me commandeering my own body, which is incredibly empowering when you think about it. Sure, my genetics have given me a little bit more thigh and booty than what society might try to deem as pretty, but they help me dance, which is probably my favorite thing to with my body.
And, I will continue to dance because my body is mine, and I plan to do something radical with it.