I have a very fickle and often antagonistic relationship with my body. When I was young, I was a fat kid. Looking back on the pictures now, I'm kind of shocked that that's how I thought of myself at the time. But it has shaped me, possibly more than anything else.
I was tall, always about a head taller than my twin brother until he finally, anti-climactically outgrew me. My cheeks in the old photos are roundish, but my body doesn't look how I remember it. I remember it as a wide, fleshy vessel, inside of which I hid, waiting with a book propped in front of my nose for puberty to hit and give me hips and breasts and perhaps even someday a boyfriend who would pull me out of the hellish in-between.
I spent so may hours wishing my body different, and when I look at the pictures from those years now, I can finally see the cute little girl my mother saw. I now know why she kept the infamous horse picture, that wretchedly embarrassing photo of me posing with the horse in front of the barn. I am standing there, with my hair teased into perfect Jersey coiff, in my big hoodless green & white Joyce Kilmer Elementary School sweatshirt layered over thigh hugging stretch pants. On my feet I am wearing white keds. I am awkward but adorable and I look so happy, and I can see why my mother kept this photo on display in the front hallway, much to my chagrin, until just about a year ago.
I hated that picture so much in my youth. Mom protected it, knowing full well what I had done to my old dance pictures in a fit of self hatred. She found them lying in a lifeless pile, many multicolored snowlflakes in the bottom of the plastic bag lined trashcan in her bedroom. I hated the horse picture, the dance pictures, all the pictures so much. When I looked at them, all I saw were parts, like the parts I described above. Disjointed, ugly, hateful parts.
So it should come as no surprise, if I saw myself as parts as a child, and if I continue to see myself as parts to this day, that I am completely and utterly confused when confronted by an assessment of my whole being. It continues to come as a surprise when people call that whole being "hot stuff", or "sexy", or simply hiss like the Dominicans used to in my neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. What, exactly, do they see? What do they see that I don't?