There’s this book I recently started listening to called The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor. Highly recommend (even while she’s on the far liberal left side of things, and her politics are not my politics). What she says is important. She teaches about the systems that allow us (require us?) to apologize for who and what we are, and why it’s a radical concept to reject these ways of thinking.
I feel like this is an important message both because I am (conveniently) an owner of a body, but also because of the conversations we’ve been having about systemic racism this year. How apropos.
At the end of each chapter, she asks a question that rings perfect for meditation.
One of those first questions went something like, “How have you been apologizing for your body?”
Inherently, I know I’ve been apologizing for far too long in this life. But until it’s time to sit right down and “be” with myself as I admit to the things I could never before say aloud, it’s easy to pretend like that kind of thing has never happened.
Reality, however, is a tougher sword to swallow.
Because I have been apologizing for this body since I was ten years old and started to menstruate.
I apologized for starting too early – and for keeping that a secret while the other little girls years later began to fake theirs.
I apologized because my period wasn’t normal – it lasted for months, not a week. I apologized by never pooping in a public bathroom – even though a vast majority of my time was spent away from my home. I apologized for it when I woke up in sixth grade and overnight had C-cup breasts. I apologized for it when I was harrassed by little boys in summer camp, and I apologized when I was cat called by much older men as they slowed their drive by in their pickup trucks. They must not have know how young I was. I’m sorry about that.
I apologized because my teeth weren’t right and my skin looked like I’d been hit with a gigantic cheese grater. I apologized because I grew hair down there and couldn’t believe that another girl hadn’t yet – and when I showed her she told everyone I was a lesbian – so I apologized for that, too.
I apologized for not being thin enough, for my belly that stuck out, for the digestion that occasionally happened, even though I was barely eating anything at all – because maybe if my body took up less space, maybe if I used up less oxygen, I wouldn’t have to apologize so goddamn much all the time.
Adult Me can look back on all of this apologizing and it breaks my heart I felt that way. And little Me recognizes that there was no other option, I couldn’t not apologize. Because the only other option was selfishness and everyone, especially the aunt who pointed it out, knows just how terrible it is for me to be a selfish little brat. I’m sorry.
The thing is, as painful as it is to revisit even a fraction of the things that I apologized for about my body, the rational, grown up version of me fully knows there was never a situation where I should have been apologizing for ANY of that. I was a normal little girl, a child who went through a precocious puberty. A child whose body functioned a little differently than average – but not a single thing that I went through was wrong – and certainly not my fault. Yet I took the lead on the Self Flagellation Team, ready to whip myself with a cat o’nine tails the second any part of me did something embarrassing.
To what end?
Psychological and physical detriment, I’m sure.
What permanent scars did I create, here?
And yet, as much as it’s tempting to sit in that brokenness, to admit that I am permanently broken – and that those stretch marks and scars will never go away… I know that those days are impossibly over.
Because I’m done apologizing.
There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with me. And those lenses I used to see through are what is broken. Permanently cracked – because here I am now, looking at current Me. And at past Me. At who I was before and who I am now, and we are irreconcilably changed.
My body is perfect and it functions exactly as anyone could expect it to – even for the things that are not “normal.”
Those things are still exactly as they “should be” because that’s exactly how they are.
And you? Might also consider that everything you once apologized for was an unnecessary “sorry.”
Your body is not an apology. It, too, is exactly perfect, exactly as you are.