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The Shame That Comes With Our Body and Where it Comes From

These things we walk around in, can hold a burden so much greater than anticipated. We have to start talking about it instead of shying away from something everyone has.

Do you know what I'm talking about? I wish I could say I had no clue. I wish I could say I've never felt shame around my body, but I would be a liar.

The truth is, this is taught. We learn it from our parents. We see their shame, and we chose it for ourselves. I have so many memories of my parent's shame. My dad struggling with eating. My mom obsessing over scars and wrinkles. She would say, "I'm not supposed to have a scar. When I die I want to be pure for God." not realizing she was god, and the "God" she was referring to literally died with nails through the end of his appendages, or so the story goes. I never paid attention until one day my mom sat me down and prodded at my face. She plucked my eyebrows saying "Men don't like women who have a unibrow."Little did she know, that wouldn't be a problem for me. She picked at a blackhead on my lip and said, "People will make fun of your acne." Little did I know these messages were not for me, they were for her. These were traumas she faced. When I was eleven, my parents were divorcing, and ugly, grueling, relentless battle. My brother and I often wanted time to process in the silence of our rooms. We wished to lock ourselves away from the tension, the manipulation, that our little minds were unaware of, but our souls saw straight through. The problem with this, our parents found us selfish. They said we were selfish for not wanting to spend time with them. They guilted us into being in common areas, where we all would divert to the pacifier that is the television. I would space out and not even know what I was watching. So numb to it all.

To avoid getting in trouble, I would lock myself in the bathroom. I couldn't get yelled at if I was in the bathroom, right? I would pick and prod at my pimples. One day I walked out of the bathroom, my face red from pinching, and my dad said, "Jessica! Honey! What happened to your face!" I told him I had only been picking at my acne. "Jessica, you don't understand! If you ever want to be married, your skin has to be perfect! Woman have different standards in the world. If you pick at it, it will scar, and your opportunities will be slim!"

Imagine my dilemma when I found that picking my acne in the bathroom was my form of meditation.

When we are kids, our parents are responsible for our bodies, our well being, our safety. That's a lot of pressure for everyone involved. Often times that translates into thinking our bodies are for other people. So we start dressing for approval, and the relationship with our bodies becomes a spiral of codependency and shame around other people's definition of what a "perfect body" is. Not realizing everyone has a version of this. Skinny women want to be thick, thick women want to be thin. Curly haired people want straight hair, and straight haired people want curley hair. Everyone has a standard that is impossible to get to!

What's sad it this is only a white-person's struggle, I couldn't imagine the shame that comes with more melanin, and it's something I wonder about every day I look my latino husband in the face.

The fact of the matter is, it's unnecessary. While I will not deny it is real, it's not necessary. We have to start celebrating our bodies for what they can do, instead of shaming them for what they can not.

I always say that Kim Kardashian was the BEST thing that ever happened to me. Right when I got to college, that scandal happened, and all of a sudden, having an hour-glass frame and thick thighs was in! Best ever! The days of feeling awkward and uncomfortable in my body were over! I strutted that shit all around the city of Boston! It was the best ever. Until my hair started falling out.

Then the shame that came with that was unbearable. Diet tests, "not being able to control my stress", more gut checks, I felt again like the child coming out of the bathroom. I could never win, could never be in control, and was overall helpless. Nevertheless, denying gratitude for my heart still pumping blood, my lungs still filtering carbon, and my feet still holding me up.

Our bodies hold shame that aren't our. These are the cries of our ancestors. If you reach down and feel your belly button, you will be touching an eternal lineage that is our body. You will also wtiness the seperation that is proven in the same way. It was here we were one with our mother, and she was was one with hers, and so on and so on. It is also here that we were separated.

And that is the part that's important.

We must take back our bodies. These are our homes. We should have homes that feel good, that we're proud of, that we're excited to come home to, that are truly ours.

To end this rant. I will recall one moment from childhood where I finally took my body back. My mother did not allow me to shave above the knee or use tampons in an old-fashioned matter of preserving my innocence.

It was so hot one day, that I wore shorts to school, and though my hair above my knee was white, it was still noticeable. The shorts I wore were light blue, and my period had started that morning. I had gym that day, and I wanted to wear a tampon, because whenever I had gym, pads sucked. Of course my mom said no, so she sent me off, hairy legs and pad in all.

During school, I was sitting next to my crush, who was a massive flirt, and he unexpectedly started feeling up my leg, and noticing my hair, he quickly snapped his hand away and said, "What the!" I said, "What?!" thinking there was a bug or something. He said, "Your leg is hairy!" I said, "My mom won't let me shave above my knee." This was a concept I could tell was foreign to him...

After that class, I was walking down the hallway, when a friend came up and whispered that I had "Bled through." and I groaned and ducked into a bathroom. Quickly manufacturing a handmade pad, (paper towels and bunched toilet paper) and resorted to tying my sweatshirt around my waist fo the rest of the say.

That day, after school, my dad picked me up. This was the same dad, who years before, told me I needed to be perfect. He asked me how my day was, and I answered honestly, "Terrible." "Why?" "Because! I just want to be normal! My legs are hairy and for some reason my periods are always so messy. I can never win!" My dad looked down at my legs. "Well your legs are hairy, and periods are messy." he said. "Those are facts, and your choice"

I responded, "No! Mom doesn't let me use tampons, or shave my legs." Scoffing, my dad raises his voice a little, (I think more at my mom than at me) "Jessica, this is your body. It is your choice how you want to take care of it. If you want to shave your legs, shave them. It you want to use tampons, use them. If you don't, don't. " That night I shaved and for the first time in a long while, loved my body and felt clean.

Social work when evaluating a person's wellbeing, they often look at their environment. Is it clean? Is it safe? Is it comfortable? Are they able to properly care for themselves or receive care? Are their surroundings supportive of their wellbeing? We often forget that with our bodies, it's the same thing. My loved ones, this is your body, this is your home, the environment in which your soul lives. It is your choice to love it or hate it. It is also your choice how you take care of it. If you wish to feed it with crap and numb it with drugs and alcohol, and other toxins, and give it away at the expense of your well being that is likely how you will feel about it, toxic. If you choose to love it, and care for it and feed it like you matter, you will often feel that way about it. Like you matter. This is not to shame you, this is waking you up. This is fact. If you want the conditions of your life to change, you have to start with the environment in which you live. Love your body.

***Special note*** This is not meant to shame any parent including my own. Events that happen in this story are true to my memory, and were defining moments in healing body trauma from my family. Everyone has these types of stories, and I do not mean to shame or blame anyone, especially my parents, for the way they raised me. I know with 100% certainty, they did the best with what they knew how.

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