Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

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Why Big Girls Fear Bouncing

September 29, 2013

I shudder a little as a bead of sweat drips from my lower back straight into my ass crack, and try to focus on the chick-singers-of-the-90s soundtrack my adorable, tiny, lesbian spin instructor has chosen for this morning’s workout. She’s what I like to a call a speed-happy teacher. Her workouts include such rapid cadences and her legs rotate at such an impossible rate, I often wonder if my face reflects the mixture of awe and despair I feel as I try to keep up with her.

But mixed in with futility and fatigue is another feeling, a horrible clenching sensation; it is an intense, self-inflicted force that seems to be working against any efficient output on my bike’s flywheel. After a while I figure it out: I’m desperately trying to keep myself from bouncing.

Now, before the spin instructors of the world jump on me – I know, I know. You shouldn’t necessarily be “bouncing” if you have your resistance at the correct level. But at some point, when you’re told to match your pace to the rhythm of the song, and that song is Destiny’s Child’s Jumpin’ Jumpin’ (think about it), shit’s gonna bounce.

So I’m very busy bracing myself against the natural syncopations my curvy body wants to add to the song, and causing my musculature a stressful disservice in the process. Why? Because as a young girl I was taught that seeing flesh move – boobs, thighs, butt or otherwise – is unattractive and unappealing and it should all just stay put.

That’s why by the time I was in middle school I was effortfully pulling on girdle underwear and stuffing myself into minimizer bras every morning. That’s why I spent years feeling shame as I watched television or looked at magazines and saw no resemblance between those bellies and my belly. And that’s why the other day, at 32, despite 7 years worth of analysis, I had an absolute, certifiable melt down in therapy, realizing I’m still at war with my body.

But it’s worse than that. It’s so much bigger and so much more insidious than that, and the solution so much more daunting. Because as I stood on a crowded subway on my way home, crying behind sunglasses, and eyeing the women around me, I realized I was not just prejudiced against my own body, I have been inflicted with a prejudice against my body TYPE, on myself and others.

Once, somewhere around 13, my mother came into my room as I lay on my bed in my underwear and commented on how “Zaftig” I looked. I think she meant it as a compliment, but where weight, and (from as early as I can remember) my particular need to lose it, was such a consistent topic of conversation around the Rosenberg household, I instead took it as a vile insult. To this day, when I hear the word something inside me seizes in revulsion. At this particular session, my therapist used the word to describe me and I practically spit across the room at her from behind the tiny fort I had built out of balled tissues.

Now I find myself in the painful process of taking a harsh look at how I judge other women, consciously and unconsciously; how my monkey-mind plays a constant game of comparison, swinging from body part to body part, throwing its sick feces around. And I am crushed by the overwhelming task of change. How can I possibly glorify anything other than smooth, taut, immobile skin, when I never see anything but? If I never see shaking, jiggling, pock-marked skin, if I never see pubic hair or buttzits, if I never see the watery flesh of soft arms anywhere else but on myself, how can I ever heal? I can make progressive comments on Facebook all I want about the fleshy models on Modcloth, but my diseased brain still glorifies Athleta.

The Buddhist response (the one I always look to first…) is forgiveness, namely of myself and the family members who influenced these beliefs. But to truly work through this, I think I have to figure out how to forgive … all of western society? I mean, seriously. The industries that support the Glorification of the Lean have undergone some change, but there aren’t enough Beyonces and Rick Owenses and Rebel Wilsons out there to make a dent yet. The only way I think I can heal, grow, and see myself as sexy is to let go of my anger, forgive my culture, and sever my self-worth from its clenching fist.

I gotta let go and bounce.

When I was drinking, I could bounce. People drink to conjure their “beer goggles,” right? It’s a blurry lens to pull over the eyes and make the prospective one night stand sitting next to you more attractive.  I drank to make what I like to call full beer headgear.  With beer headgear, the goggles have little mirrors in them, so instead of seeing my date as more attractive, I was magically able to see myself as more attractive. Additionally, beer headgear comes with two beer ear plugs – or beerplugs – which accomplish a much more important goal: quieting the unending prattle of body-hating self-judgment.

I could dance in a beerhelmet. I could flirt in a beerhelmet. I could bounce in a beerhelmet. And I think I judged others less in a beerhelmet. I wouldn’t trade my sobriety for anything in the world, but after 4 ½ years I still have not figured out how to generate a boozeless bounce. Of course, alcohol is used the world over to enhance social buoyancy, I’m no one new or special, but there are also lots of non-drinkers out there, and they must have figured it out one way or another.

I don’t think I can go it alone. I need my friends to stop hating on themselves, too. I need us all to stop commenting on one another, comparing one another. I need men and women to be more outspoken about what they find sexy, across the whole spectrum. I need Hoda and Kathy to stop doing specials on dieting while sucking back pinot grigio at 8 AM. I need to see what models’ thighs actually look like without an airbrush. I need the expression, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” to be banned from the English language. I need every woman to wear just a sports bra at yoga, not just the skinny girls. I need more Beyonce. I need more Rick Owens. I need more Rebel Wilson.

And in the meantime… I need to bounce.

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Forgiveness

October 9, 2009

I’m not sure when exactly it happened. I always think of an experience like forgiveness as something that occurs at a notable place and time, when you suddenly feel a weight release.  But it’s really never like that, is it?  The awareness of it may be sudden, but the actual act of forgiving happens so subtly you never really experience it.  Or, maybe it’s that you just don’t care any more; other experiences have crowded into your brain and you just don’t have the neural space and energy to waste.

I lost my virginity to a guy who was raised a Jehovah’s Witness.  I note this not because it matters, but because the list of the first 3 men I slept with always makes me laugh, like the set up to a bad joke: “So a Jehovah’s Witness, a black guy and a bisexual walk into my vagina…”

We were coworkers and friends for over a year before our attraction to one another became apparent.  Once it did, it wasn’t long until one drunken night, I made a decision, and he trekked down 6 flights of stairs into a cold rain to buy condoms.

In retrospect, the issue was never that we slept together, but rather ill-communication between a naïve late-bloomer craving her first taste of physical intimacy, and a male unable to resist sexual opportunity when presented to him.

The hurt came from subsequent weeks of thinking something was “happening” between us, working together with frustrating vacillation between awkwardness and affection, ultimately culminating in him, instead, bringing his new girlfriend to my house for a small party I was hosting.

To my house.

There was a lot of emailing that happened after that: from me calculated and biting; from him, defensive and confused.  And then silence. I stopped speaking to him for about 6 months, until we had to start working together again the following season, and my manager insisted we get together to make sure we could still function as coworkers.

We could. It wasn’t fun, per say, and the total lack of flirtation and affection felt uncomfortable, but at least neither of us lost our jobs.  But I was still bullshit.  I was bullshit at his insensitivity to flaunt this woman in my territory, hurt at my perceived rejection, and, probably more than anything, mad at myself for expecting this situation with this particular guy would turn out any way other than it had.  I managed to not regret losing my virginity – I was 24, it was high time – but, upon looking back, I was angry with myself that I had wasted my time and energy on a non-functional situation.

Years went by once we finished that particular job, where I had little to no contact with him, until one day I realized I missed him.  Not in that want-to-sleep-with-an-ex sort of way, I just missed him.  I guess that meant I forgave him, and myself.

Forgiveness, I guess, is a slow, barely perceptible process of letting go of our beliefs.  To grasp on to a feeling of right-ness – of having been wronged – is to believe that any action is ever actually about us.  It isn’t.  Nothing is about one person. It’s about millions of events which have occurred over years of time, and at some point two lives intersect, along with those millions of events.  To forgive a particular event is to acknowledge that nothing is static, that everything changes constantly and nothing happens in a vacuum.

In the movie Shortbus, an NC-17 rated art film about the sexual lives of a handful of New Yorkers, one particular sage-like character expounds, “People come to New York to seek forgiveness.”  The first time (and the next 10 times…) I heard this line, I began weeping.  I’m not exactly sure why – I don’t know precisely for what it is I still feel I need forgiveness – but it obviously had a huge impact on me.  I came to New York to perform; I can’t say when I moved into my first apartment I ever dreamed of teaching yoga or being a Buddhist, but where the emphasis in both schools of thought is of a constantly renewed effort of letting go, I’d say the quote has some serious merit…