Monday, March 26, 2012

Head to Toe

Photo on 3-26-12 at 7.16 PM

Too loose to be called curls, too frizzy to be cool: my hair is a mass of thick tangles.  But I've learned to tame them, mostly.  I stopped brushing.  (Really!)  I bought better shampoo.  I diffused.  Now I manage.  My hair holds a curl or a flattening like there's no tomorrow.  It's coarse, thick and long.  I pile it in a knot at my crown.  I've got strategies, now.  Tools.  Curly hair is not the curse it once was.

My spine gently curves to the right like a bending reed.  My shoulders slope and betray my scoliosis.  My left is higher, feels better carrying purses.  But Left holds tension when life gets too hard.  It's Left I rub while I check my email and grade.  When I was dancing, Left had to be pushed down, fought into compliance.  My shoulders are a teeter totter of effort, but they look good in halters.

I don't particularly mind my arms.  E likes them a lot, and they seem to work when I need them to.  They're not very defined, but they shape up nicely when I work out, and they can swing a seven year old in the air.  I think of my arms as starting at my spine (as all ballet dancers do, I'm sure).  The muscles of my back hold them strong and they stretch wide to touch the sides of the room.  They punctuate in thick, stubby fingers... but I learned to work them into arabesques and fifth en haut.  They're well trained hands that remember ballet shapes that have mostly faded away.

My chest was a point of contention from years eleven to twenty five (or so).  A particularly disgusting boy in eighth grade made a comment that stuck.  I thought such things actually mattered.  But when it did matter--for babies--I abandoned all preconceptions and marveled (and laughed) at the functions of my body.  My chest is having a Renaissance in my thirties... no joke.  What a silly thing, but I'll take it.  It's a different chest; nursing took a toll.  But age has brought blessings, or at least, perspective.  And frankly, I worship at the altar of the structured undergarments of the 2010's.

My back was never flexible, but it has always been strong.  From waist to hip I'm a living memorial, an etched map of topographic lines that betray any impressions of youth I might garner with my face.  Nearly three weeks after my due date, I sat and waited for Roo to come.  I grew and grew and grew.  The white lines that cut into my flesh to this day remind me of how strained my body was to hold her.  The doctors took Henry early, but he stretched out inside the space his sister had made.  The mark of their births, my Cesarean scar, slopes down to the right, echoing the line of my shoulders.  I'm a parallelogram.

I love my legs best.  They leap.  And spin.  And run.  And rise.  They bend deep and they move like not a single day has passed since I've taken technique class.  Muscle memory must fade slowest in the legs, because mine seem to remember every roll, leap, and rond de jambe.  The skin remains taut and healthy looking.  I'm thankful for my legs when they stick out of skirts.  They feel good when I run. Strong.  Healthy.  Sure.

I've broken many toes. They fit together now like slim puzzle pieces.  My feet roll inward on weak arches and I pronate when I run.  But my soles feel good in the sand.  When I'm not crashing them in to anything, my feet flex and pointe and push like old times.

Years pass and I'm still aware of the imperfections, but thankful to be in this body.  Youth meant a constant state of dread over each flaw.  I let that go.  I haven't changed drastically in adulthood--most people wouldn't think so to look at me.  The changes are personal, close to my heart.  But in spite of them I maintain this temple with more confidence.  I like to dress it up.  Or make it up.  Or wrap it in soft comfort on tired afternoons.

My body has given me two beautiful children.  And another--before Ad--that it inexplicably let go. That was hard. Like all hurts, that was followed with different joy.  It's another imperfection, but it's proof that such things are not my undoing.  My DNA walks the earth on two other bodies.  When I think of that, I feel small, and also immortal.

I'm thankful that I know this body well and I get to dwell in it with comfort.  I'm thankful for health.  I'm thankful for running.  I'm thankful for the sway of my hips and the pirouettes of my core.  I'm thankful that I can love something that's flawed.  That's love of anything, right?  Even me.


Lately I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Talk about the ways in which your body is awesome.


  1. Thank you for the reminder of how amazing our bodies can be, despite our physical "flaws". I needed this today, as my body image has been a little down recently.

  2. This is one of my favorite posts! You're so beautiful and such an amazing writer. I appreciate your vulnerability and true acceptance of self.

  3. You have a way of writing things in such a beautiful way...I love this post.