My fascination with the human body reaches far beyond the obsessive. It is the only thing in this world that we really feel, the rest of the world imposes itself onto it. It took me years to really feel my body, perhaps because I spent so many years detached from it. I spent so much of my time squashing down the pain that haunts my ligaments, my shoulders too busy carrying the weight of others to bear my own weight. Now I can feel every square millimeter of skin, every internal organ, the strong beat of my heart reduced to a faint pulse in my veins, the tendons that span my every joint. I can feel the tightness in my jaw perpetually clenched as a result of living in a city. I am hyperaware of a patch of delicate skin on the inside of my forearm tingling into a strange, sharp pain for no reason. I can feel that pain recede.
It has been a long time since my own body has kept me awake into the night. My thighs are mammogramed against the sheets. Veins spider out from the depths of my flesh. Purplish, they match the stretch marks spanning the expanse of skin creating a constant, uncomfortable friction between my eternally jiggling thighs. Under the weight of my down, coffee-stained duvet, I pinch the soft roll I have created with my contorted ready-to-sleep position. One leg raised to over a ninety degree angle, chest pressed against the mattress, head turned to the side. The roll is quite soft under my hypersensitive fingertips. If it is so soft, why does it repulse me? My fingertips become violent pinching and pinching the same soft, harmless roll of flesh. I want to pinch it off. In fact I am sure, positive even, that my life would change for the better, that I would be happier if I could pinch this roll off of my circumference, right here, right now.
It’s just me. It’s just my body onto which I apply such scrutiny. The bones and flesh of others I am jealous of. They wear their skin so well. I don’t notice the absence of a protruding collarbone on anyone, yet I spend hours in the mirror forcing mine out of my skin. Belts are measurement and torture. The reward for being on the tightest loop is painful pressure as your body screams at you to listen to your stomach, and intestines force themselves around the tightness of this torture device as you sit down.
I know the drill by heart, this is what I have learned about how to love your body: exercise will shrink you. Cardio does nothing, only strength training, but it won’t work in the absence of cardio. You must eat almonds, unsalted, but not too many because of the copious amounts of calories; only eat enough to feel like you haven’t actually eaten at all. Avocado is a must, but only eat half, leave the other two euros’ worth to rot in the back of your fridge—punishment for the quantity of fat that it, like me, naturally contains. Fruit has sugar in it, avoid at all costs. Eat only fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates are the devil. One can eat carbohydrates only if they are complex, assuring that they taste like bird seed. And see a therapist. Pizza and burgers should never be eaten, unless, of course, to prove to others that you definitely do eat. Whatever meals you actually consume should be green and flavorless. Seasoning has calories, be careful.
Bones should show their edges. Only edges are deemed worthy. We are all sacks carrying bones, organs and muscles. But a sack should be just that, no extra padding to protect the fragility of your bones. We have been taught that certain bones should always be shown, for no particular reason other than to keep us awake at night pinching and pinching and pinching. Starting from the top. The skull is exempt from showing itself as long as high cheekbones and mandibles are evident. The spine leading down from the base of the neck can be hidden in some bodily positions, however, when hunched forward over your computer typing about the specific bones that you wished would protrude out of your body, a straight line or knobs would be preferable.
Hip bones are a mystery to me. I can feel mine, but they don’t show and they are so wide compared to the expanse of fat that contains my organs. My hip bones are what make me realize none of it matters. A body can’t exist without all of it. The things that keep me awake, pinching and pinching and pinching, are all the parts that someone else, alone in their bed, awakened by their own body, is appreciating. They’ll consume the other half of the avocado I have banished to the back of my fridge and eat simple carbohydrates, not afraid of what a quick release of sugar molecules might do to their rolls. They are the people I am jealous of, the people that wear their skin and flesh beautifully. But they must have a pinching place somewhere in their mind, their body, their relationships. Everyone has a pinching place.
*Artwork by Ryder LeVieux