Do you love your body? It’s a loaded question. According to a Glamour magazine survey, 97 percent of young women experience at least one body-hating thought every single day.
In light of the upcoming annual Love Your Body Campaign organized by the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women, I want to do some body image exploration. I want to encourage you to really consider your relationship with your physical self.
But this stuff is super complicated. Generalizing your thoughts and feelings toward your body challenges the unique character of that relationship.
So, in the spirit of being thought provoking and possibly giving out too much information, I did what I do best — I wrote a letter. I hope it helps you love yourself a little more, or at the very least, understand why you don’t already.
Remember that time I slathered you in coconut-scented, orange-hued carcinogenic foam so you wouldn’t look quite so pale at the beach? For weeks after, it looked like you had an unidentifiable skin condition and it was really awkward for both of us. I’m sorry about that.
I’d also like to take back calling you a “great white whale” at said beach. You are not a whale. You are a human.
There are a lot of other things I’ve said about you over the years that I wish I could retract. Calling you stupid and ugly probably wasn’t all that constructive, but I’ve done it. Many times.
While I’m in an apologetic mood, I might as well say sorry for the recurring pizza consumption, the Peanut Butter M&M’s and (oh God) the Curious Incident of the Nine Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. I know these things make you feel like you are on a one-way train to Diabetes Town, but I am not mature enough to prioritize your feelings all the time.
I am also sorry about the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet and the kind-of-not-really eating at all diet. There are very few things a young person can control, but weight is one of them. Watching your number on the scale go down made me feel strong, even when it made you weak. Thank you for always reminding me how good bacon cheeseburgers taste before I could damage you irreparably.
The bizarre part of all of this is that I don’t treat anyone else in my life as poorly as I treat you. I would never berate the people I care about, regularly point out all of their flaws or knowingly damage their health.
Is it because I hate you while I love them? Or because I don’t really give a damn about you? Had you asked me a few years ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer. But I’m starting to understand.
I don’t hate you and I am certainly not indifferent toward you — I am afraid of you. I am deeply afraid of you like I am afraid of nothing and nobody else.
You separate me from the outside world. You are my point of contact with the rest of humanity, the most significant marker of my social identity and the vehicle for all my thoughts and actions.
You could, conceivably, prevent me from getting a job or having a family. You could change everything I’ve ever known about myself in an instant. You have so much power over me and I’m constantly rebelling against it. (See: cupcakes. See also: tequila.)
Even when I feed you kale and bring you to the gym, it is out of fear — fear that you will get sick or fat or broken and stand between me and the things I want most.
It’s too much pressure on a relationship. It’s not working, obviously. So let’s try something different.
I’m going to trust you, blindly, to not screw up my entire life. I’m going to attempt to listen to you when you tell me to eat and sleep and exercise. I’m going to treat you with love and respect — no more of this bullying crap. And definitely no weird-smelling self-tanner.
I may not be very good at it, but I’m going to try. With any luck, we have about 60 more years together to figure it out. I don’t love you yet, but I’m not about to give up hope.
Lauren Agresti is a College senior from Fulton, Md. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @lagresti. “Piece of Mind” appears every Thursday.