I have had a love-hate relationship with my body, ever since I was eleven years old. I hated all the changes my body went through. I went to great lengths to hide them from everyone else, and hated my mother for discovering what was supposed to be my shameful secret. Didn’t the lady know how to knock on the bathroom door? I resented everyone at that stage. I resented my mother’s intrusion, her insistence that I wear a bra and stop wearing shorts and dresses. I was handed a flimsy duppata to wear with my shalwar kurtas and told that this item of clothing must now always cover my chest. I resented the other girls in my class because none of them bled every month. I resented the pains, stains, and also the hiding of all this. I resented how men looked at me in bazaars. What the hell were they looking at anyway? But most of all, I resented my body for betraying me in this manner. I wanted to remain a child.
Then came my teenage years, by which time, all my friends had caught up and then thankfully I didn’t have to suffer alone or silently. I became the older sister to class fellows my own age, happily instructing them in how to deal with things no one else had bothered telling them about.
I still hated my body though. It was too skinny. I thought I looked like a twelve year old boy. I wanted the curves my friends so confidently sported.
And then I moved from Pakistan to Canada, and suddenly, my body was viewed differently. People complimented me for being thin and other women frequently asked how I maintained my figure. But just as I was beginning to accept the body I had, along came motherhood, and I got the curves I always wanted, only to discover how much I hated curves. I wanted my earlier body back. I realized how pretty my earlier body had been compared to the C-section scars, stretch marks, and the layers of fat I now carried.
But there was much to love in this new body too. I was complete. Able to single-handedly provide all of my children’s needs. Yet, this also meant that I, who had always so jealously guarded her own space, now had to be on hand to feed my babies. There was love. There was resentment.
In my thirties, I steadily gained weight. Nothing too noticeable, but enough for me to notice it. I didn’t like this new body, and it didn’t matter that my man constantly reassured me that I looked good, felt good. What did he know anyway?
I decided that all the extra flesh had to go before I hit forty. I took up yoga and running. I walked. I lost inches and pounds. I am now the same weight I was before I had my children. I am now 44 years old. There are still things about my body which I don’t like. The stretch marks and the surgical scars on my belly. But there is so much that I love as well. I am now old enough to realize that it is alright for me to love my body. It is alright to like how it looks. My body is far from perfect. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s enough for it to simply just be.
Messy. Ugly. Imperfect.
Neat. Beautiful. Perfect. And most importantly, always hungry for more of what life can give it.