|Posted by Abbie on August 19, 2020 at 11:05 AM|
I’ve been saddened by the number of women who aren’t happy in their bodies; have never felt they were perfect or even good enough, and have been their own worst critics when it comes to shape, size, appearance, etc. I hope these thoughts may inspire a different approach and a more positive response to this curious amalgamation of skin, bone, muscle and tissue that we call our bodies!
At 14 years old I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis – a lateral curvature of the spine with no known cause. Ten years earlier, and there’d have been no option; it would have got progressively worse, resulting in at best a disabling condition, or at worst death from a punctured lung from a twisted rib. However by the time of my diagnosis surgeons had developed corrective surgery which, after many tense months of checking growth and suitability, I was offered. 2 months flat on my back in hospital; 2 more months in a plaster cast from chin to hip, and a further 8 months in a spinal brace. Not surprisingly I didn’t celebrate my 16th birthday in any traditional way…
Of course during those teenage years I had all the usual angst about my body. I was flat-chested, had sparrows’ legs, acne, bony knees and elbows, and couldn’t have looked less like Farah Fawcett (the iconic look of the day) if I’d tried. But compared with the prospect of what might have been had it not been for our amazing surgeons and health service, these anxieties seemed suddenly quite absurd.
Somehow, at least in Western culture, women have learned to feel inadequate when it comes to their bodies. But think about the ‘ideal’ female silhouette over the past 100-odd years:
The Gibson Girl (with her large bust and huge bustle)
The Flapper (no bust, waist or hips)
The New Look (tiny cinched waist)
Marilyn Monroe (voluptuous)
Twiggy (skinny, boyish)
Farah Fawcett (slender, curvy, healthy)
Madonna (curvy, pointy, muscly – at least she called the shots!)
Heroin Chic (skeletal, sickly)
Kim Kardashian (large bust and huge bum - ooh look, we’re back to the Gibson Girl!)
What are the chances of having the ‘right’ shape at the right time of your life?! (Catwalk models whilst being fêted as an ideal get a lot of criticism for being unrepresentative, but haute couture has as little to do with the clothes we wear as haute cuisine has to do with the food we share. This topic would need its own blog….). Our ideas of perfection change over time, and all are accentuated versions of real women, who are all beautiful, precisely in their variety.
It’s time to acknowledge our condition of privilege when we complain about our [insert issue of choice here] wrinkles/cellulite/fat bum/flat chest, etc.
Can your eyes see the stars?
Can your arms hug a friend?
Can you dance in the rain?
Can you give birth?
Can you run up a hill?
Can your skin keep your insides from falling out?
Can you write a love letter?
Can you hear the birds?
Can you paint a butterfly (I know, only if it stays still for long enough!)?
Can you feel the sun on your skin?
Can you cuddle a baby?
Can you care for another person or creature?
If you can do any of these things (and what other things can your body do that you could include in your own list?) you should treasure, respect, cherish and celebrate your body.
I was incredibly fortunate to be able to return to dancing after my surgery, and as a folk and social tradition Belly Dance is wonderfully accommodating to women of all shapes, sizes and appearance, so discovering it in my 40s renewed my gratitude to my surgeon and the wonderful hospital staff all those years ago who made me realise what an amazing thing it is to have a body, and to have the privilege to be able to dance. Choose to look after as best you can and to love yours!