Reading: A Letter to My Body

Beauty

A Letter to My Body

We used to be on good terms. Then I turned 50.

By Kelly Jackson

Body Image Aging
Photo by Jorge Zapata

They used to call me Fence Post  because I’m skinny. I was skinny. I mean, I’m still holding steady on the slim side, but there are shifts that make my fence-post frame more malleable, a hair over my plumb weight and losing ground to bulges, wrinkles, and additional layers.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with a few complaints. According to a National Institutes of Health study called Body Image, Aging and Identity in Women Over 50, we’re NOT HAPPY!  

Were I to write a letter to my body, it would go something like this:

Dear Body O’ Mine,

You have served me well thus far. But really, bitch…WTF??

How dare you transform the skin on my hands into an onion-peel-thin, crepe-like covering that, when pinched and pulled away from the hand, stays there until I press it back into position?  Was it that important to you to bulge my hand veins into three-dimensional, discolored rivulets like one might find on a map of the Mississippi River delta region? Why have you knuckles doubled in size, to the point where my rings no longer fit? And, why is that bone sticking out where my wrist meets my hand? When did THAT happen, and why? WHY?

And, you! You torso, you. Where have you gone? Whose decision was it to create hundreds of different-sized blood spots covering everything — including both of my ‘girls?’ You used to be long and lean and straight, but now you’re shrinking so that, before I know it, my chin will be resting on my hips. 

And, speaking of my chin, I now have to refer to you in plural terms. Once I was driving my sister somewhere, and we were having a perfectly lovely road trip when in profile, I pinched the extra bag of chin under the original one.

“Hey, look at this,” I said to Sally. ”This is new!”

Her response was chilling: “No, it’s not.”  

I said, “Yes, it IS new,” to which she replied, “No……..it’s not.”  I said, “I have never had this before!” She said, “Yes you have.” This went on for another half mile until we started laugh-snorting.

But, you know all that, don’t you, body? How DARE you!

I’m pretty fed up with you, neck! You used to be one of my most beautiful features. Everyone said so. You’re still long, but now resemble a pelican’s neck, holding the kinds of vertical wrinklage that might be mistaken for deep crevasses found in Antarctica.   Turtlenecks don’t work in the summer, and even if worn, now reveal the jowls that are dripping off my face where a smooth, aquiline jawline once resided.  

I’d tell people to kiss my ass, but it left a long time ago…following a path down the backs of my thighs. Now, no curve exists at all where it used to be, making sitting for long periods rather painful with no natural cushion on which to depend. Here’s the thing: whenever I’m walking somewhere, people behind me not only see the undulating waves of loose flab on each butt cheek but the granny-panty lines – both the top under my muffin and the bottom where my ‘bottom’ should actually be. This was your gift to me when I turned sixty?? Thanks SO much!

So, Ms. Back, you’ve grown bent and pocked with misshapen brown spots, so I hide you with clothing. It’s only when I go to the beach that everyone can get a good look as I waddle through the sand in front of them. I know that they’re looking, because I always look at other’s bodily imperfections on a beach. That’s what beaches are for! But that’s also the reason that one-piece bathing suits were invented.

On the creative side, you’ve managed to produce some pretty spectacular spider-vein starbursts around my ankles. It’s like showing tattooed firework explosions if I’m wearing ankle socks. And I am NOT wearing ankle socks EVER! I have to draw the line somewhere about what I will and will not show of my aging body.

Stomach, you motherfucker. How DARE you create the kinds of love handles that a fully-grown man-hand discovers every time one puts his arm around my waist. It doesn’t matter what I am wearing; their hand lands on the handle every time. You can always tell that it’s off-putting  as they gently lessen their grip, because they don’t want to touch that! Would YOU?!

I no longer look at my body profile in a mirror, because the stomach sticks out further than any other part and mocks me. It jiggles like a bowl full of Jell-o, laughing at all the sit-ups I do every week. I call it my food baby and that baby looks to be in at least the 8th month.  I can’t even see the disturbingly high number when I stand on my digital scale anymore. And I’ve discovered that moving a millimeter will show an extra pound.

If I could trade you in for another body that was perfect and only 30 years old, I would. No, I wouldn’t, yes I would, no I wouldn’t. I’m learning to live with you just as you are, because we’ve been together for so many years. We’re like a good marriage (not that I have much experience with that), but we’re stuck together and doing the best we can. Stay with me. Don’t break or grow malignant thingies or leave me before I’m ready.

I really do love you!

KK

PS- Don’t even get me started on my 67-year-old TEETH!

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