Originally published by the Skin Deep Project March 2014
This skin I’m in.
I wallow in its spaces. Fill my glances with sneering faces. I look for them. I seek them. Even when I don’t mean to.
For The Mother I Sometimes Meet
As long as I can remember, my mother has always been overweight. Hovering usually in an Australian dress size of 22-26, she’s had to shop at plus size stores or generic department stores with their shapeless, blocky and unflattering designs. And it was always clear, without always being spoken, that she hated her body and by extension often herself. There were many times she’d ask ‘How can you love me, when I’m so fat and ugly?’ or “Do you think I’m ugly?’ or just state ‘I look horrible. Horrible and fat.’ Questions and statements that came from a deep and hurting place inside of her.
Her relationship with herself and her body was the backdrop to mine. Although I only remember my mother directly criticizing my body a handful of times, her judgment of her own set the tone and I knew without being told that I was also fat. Also ugly.
I held the teatowel in my hand. Frozen for that heartbeat of a moment. Looking at her. Seeing her. Feeling so close to knowing who she really was. Her face was red. Her hands sunk deep into the soapy dishwater. Her hair was messy, pulling around the lines in her skin. For that tiny moment I was seeing into something un-nameable. Something beautiful in her that I still have no words for. Even now.
I was 11 when I had that moment watching her washing the dishes. It was a moment, I’ve never been able to fully articulate but it’s stayed with me. Because what I felt, was how deeply beautiful and precious my mother was (and is). I looked at her standing there, washing the dishes with messy hair, lines etched into a grumpy face and I saw her as being powerful and glorious and stunning. But I was 11 and I didn’t know how to tell her that.
So I just blinked.
The moment was gone and I kept drying the dishes.
I’ve never told my mum that story. I’ve never directly challenged or asked her about her body image issues. Although I do now try to make a point of telling her that she’s beautiful and of telling her that I’m beautiful and proud of my body.
I’ve worked really hard over the last 10 years or so to see myself, really see myself. And to love my body, this skin I’m in, not for a narrow definition of sexual or aesthetic worth but for the all its curves and edges, the shadows and shapes it makes, the powerful, healthy and strong vehicle that it is carrying me through everything I ask it to do.
So how do we have these conversations with our nearest, our dearest, our beloveds? How do we cut through the narratives and boxes the media sells us to reach into the deep truths we know and discover about each other? How do you talk with your parents or children or partner about body image? How do you wish they talked with you about body image?