Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reverb11, no. 3 | Body



Wolfman came home tonight from a guitar lesson at the Alexander home with a loaf of Kim Alexander's pepperoni bread. She sent him home with a loaf of the same last year, a bread which I had just been dreamily reminiscing over not two days ago. So, I greedily ripped away the plastic wrap, sliced myself a piece, and had taken my first bite before Wolfman had even put down his guitar case.

Now is a good time to contemplate the word Body, and My Body in particular.

I've come to terms with my body. We all have to come to terms with our bodies at some point, right, else we live a life of misery and self doubt. And my journey, like that of many others, was a bit of an arduous one. I am tall, for one thing. At 5'6" in high school, I was taller than most of the other students, or so it felt, and never wore a shoe with a higher heel than that on my knock-off Birkenstock clogs. In college, I grew another two inches my first semester. But, you see, as I attended an all-girl's school, the thought of being tall, taller than the rest of my classmates, did not bother me. In fact, I have a very distinct memory of walking to Chapel one afternoon (required in my day for all first-years), catching a glimpse of myself among a gaggle of women in a hall mirror, recognizing I was a good three to five inches taller than everybody else, and thinking, "Holy Shit. I rule!" I had a love affair with three inch stillettos after that--wore them with everything for the next few years, including ripped jeans and t-shirts, much like my Southern Belle classmates wore their pearls. But, I digress.

Occasionally, I do still feel like the giantess who comes out of the hills to smash the village to bits. But mostly, my height, my strong shoulders, my posture, my legginess--all things that I not only accept about myself, but actually like.

Of course, when I was both tall and twenty pounds heavier? Eh. Is it easier to be short and slightly plump than tall? I'm not sure. While my weight had more body-length upon which to distribute itself, I did run the risk of further encouraging that giantess imagery of the last paragraph, at least and especially, to myself. But, once my body adjusted itself to birth control, magically, and I dropped the water weight, I shouldn't have had anything to complain about.

Except that then, oh man, I had tits, right. I mean, the weight dispersed but the boobs stayed behind. And these breasts are so unbelievable that when I met up with a couple high school girlfriends I hadn't seen since BB (before breasts), their eyes about popped out of their skulls. In high school, I was a pleasant B cup. And I was damn in love with my boobs in high school; if you'd asked me when I was 17 what my best feature was, I would've said my knockers--they had just the right amount of jiggle and could fit in the palm of some lucky boy's hands (there were no such lucky boys in high school, by the way, but while a bit of a prude outwardly, I knew that one day I would be a sexual dynamo; I never doubted that even in the depths of my virginity). But, at 18, without warning one morning, I woke up and my bras could no longer contain me--my cups runneth over. And my life, I was melodramatically positive, was over. I was no longer the lithe, long-bodied, nymph of a girl. I was Jayne Mansfield.

With a 22 inch waist and a triple D cup bra, I could and would be on cloud 9--if only I were a starlet in 1962, or a stripper in Reno. Quite frankly, there are still many a day when I am utterly embarrassed by my body, and most of my closet is filled with clothes that don't quite fit me. It's not easy being Jessica Rabbit, especially unsexy Jessica Rabbit. With a raspy voice and smoldering look like Scarlet Johansson, the body works. When you have a control over your sexuality and are learned in the art of flirting like Joan Holloway, the body works. When you are resentful of being hit on and are too serious and shy (not to mention the slight undiagnosed speech impediment) for flirting, the body works against you.

But, this year at the Renaissance Faire, I bought my first corset--a sales girl about half my size managed to strap me into a 20 inch corset (it was the last in its design, and she really liked it and wanted to see it on somebody), and then nearly lifted me up off my feet tightening the laces. I did not measure the end result, but it was inhuman, and I very nearly passed out while touring the dungeon, and my vanity knew no bounds on that day. And it was not entirely about giving Dita Von Teese a run for her money. It's like Freda Garmaise writes on the subject in her essay "Under Writers - Lingerie and the Literati", "Sometimes, I feel I could use a little whalebone in my life--not to flatten my stomach, but to stiffen my resolve; not to shape my body, but my purpose. It would be buckled on much like a suit of armor and would be just the impetus I need to dash off the major work." Freda speaks of writing here, but yes, while wearing that corset, the very embodiment, it could be argued, of sick body manipulation and outdated modes of femininity, I felt strong damn it. I felt like a champ, like a juggernaut, like the Amazon my husband (2 inches taller than me barefoot) tells me I am.

And if my body, without my consent, insists on being obnoxiously sexy, why not turn it into a fitness routine? Which is why I only work out to sexy dance aerobic videos. Aerobic strip tease, ab-crunching salsa, belly dancing. I took a free sample pole dancing class on a whim with a friend, and went away with a tighter core and feeling like I'd found my calling. I'm still contemplating installing a stripper pole in my--not bedroom, but--living room. And following along to a belly dancing video for a couple weeks, my body was noticeably tighter. I even moved differently. Due to an impossible work schedule, I regretfully have given up on working out with regularity, but I've worked on remedying this during my furlough. I can manipulate my rib cage like a pro.

My body is sometimes the greatest joke I tell. I don't play Scrabble because, as I tell Wolfman, "You married a woman with tits, not brains." This is categorically untrue. Given the right arena, I am a smart cookie. (Puzzles, however, are not my strong suit given my immense impatience, and I must insist that Scrabble is not a vocabulary game, but a puzzle game.) But, I came to realize upon meeting those old gal pals after the Breast Fairy came to visit, that my body is not something I can hide. People tend to notice the fact that I seem to have fallen out of Go-Go chorus line. So, I might as well own it. If that means making an off-color joke in close company or squaring my shoulders and stretching to my full height in the face of a problem, so be it. I am motherfucking Xena. I can kill a man with my thighs. In fact, I did accidentally bruise my husband's rib once when he was tickling my feet. Holy shit. I rule.

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