Spent the Day in Bed: A Reflection of my Body Image

Every time I wake up

From a nap that’s too long

Or too short

From an entire night’s sleep

Or a split schedule rest

Before I dress myself

I stare at my abdomen

In the mirror atop my dresser

Trying to validate the extra pounds

That sit just above my underwear line

I hold my shirt up

Lift my arms

Turn sideways

From various angles

Assessing the lines my body makes

From the splash in at my waistline

Back out again before my hips

I tug and squeeze at the soft spots

Imagining them taut, flat

Telling myself that I’m attractive

Regardless of my flaws

While still wishing my body

Looked different, was smaller

Sometimes, I go through this ritual before bed too

 

I have spent years of my life telling myself that one day I will be thin.  By middle school, going shopping with my mother became a conflicted task.  I loved new clothes whether or not I really needed them.  Mostly, they gave me satisfaction in my body, in my physical image, but the reminder that I was always a size bigger than her scarred my image.  I felt like a pretty girl whose head was just a little too small for her body.  

Even then, I pulled at my upper arms in the mirror, often after a trip when I wanted a particular shirt or dress that wouldn’t fit comfortably around my biceps.  I would get home and shut myself in my room and imagine how great I would look if I was as small around as I was without my arms down.

Just a few years ago, near the climax of my father’s illness, I expressed to him and a couple of his aunts my desire to get back in shape, how I’d like to lose twenty pounds.  I’d gotten lost on a run in their neighborhood earlier in the day, which turned two miles into four and I was proud of my ability to still run so long.  Somehow I turned the story into an expression of my lack of comfort with my body, I don’t understand how.  My aunt, generally supporting my idea, replied, “That’s great, honey.  Just remember that you’re never going to be a small person.”  I knew my size came from his side, from her side, those genes in the family, that my stature or bone structure, my muscle mass and general build, would never change.  Why, then, at age 26 was I still imagining a day that I would be compact, small, and fit?  Why is it still a nagging problem that I am a big girl even though I’ve squashed the problem numerous times?

 

Rugby has taught me so much about my body.  I am strong.  Strong enough to tackle a girl that is nearly twice my size.  Strong enough to run through someone the same size as me who is literally trying to pull me to the ground.  Strong enough to drive multiple opponents off of the ball in a ruck, all in one movement.  Even when I fail, my body and my teammates never give up on me.

My professional life has taught me so much about my body.  I am capable of doing what is stereotyped to be a man’s job.  I can change a hundred pound air conditioning compressor on a class B tanker truck in the snow on the side of the road.  My shoulder muscles may hurt halfway through doing it, but they will not give up on me.  I am strong enough to deliver eight thousand pounds of groceries, on a wheeler and down a ramp, out the back of a semi-trailer, faster and more efficient than most of my male colleagues.

I’ve been hard headed enough, even recently, to move nearly all of my belongings solo.  I do it because I know I’m capable, and also because I am insecure.  I don’t want to ask anyone for help out of the inconvenience it may cause them.

I’ve spent most of my twenties proving to myself that I’m capable of doing nearly anything a man can physically do, not just because I am strong but because I am insecure.

I am looking to validate my big, strong body, but why am I looking to validate something that I know is capable? When will I stop trying to prove to the rest of the world that my size is valid?

About a month ago, one of my best friends said, “I’m done with trying to have a hot body.  I just want it to be strong and fit and healthy.”  I’m taking that advice to heart.

I will stop assessing the fat on my stomach in the mirror every day.  I am more fit than I have been in years and I will continue to get more fit, but not for the objective of losing weight or losing my belly.  Two hundred pounds look good on me.  It feels good on me too.

I am strong.  I am capable.  I am myself and I love myself.  I will stop hating my body because it is part of me and I love it too.

Just as this struggle with image has always been part of my life, I know it will continue.  This is a reminder that I can be better, and by being better to myself, I will be better to my community.

A Glimmer of Energy

“I love Prague.  The sun is coming up and although I just rode home in an uber with my homies, I can’t stop thinking about making out with Anna in the club we just left.  The birds are chirping, a choir to ring in a new day and a new gay Prague with double Ds and a pretty face, brown hair and a mole above her upper lip.  A girl that wants to show us Prague like a local.  She was born here, but for half the time I was straddling her I thought she was from California.  That kind of girl.  I’d still be there if my homies weren’t ready for bed.  But I sit now, listening to the birds and reflecting.  They said it was a night to be weird.  I took it to heart.”

“To hard-ons & heartbreak” (circa 2015)

We clink our Irish coffee mugs together at a high-top table for two on the second floor of Slainte and smile.

“Cheers,” she says.

“To hard-ons and heartbreak,” I reply.  We laugh and take a biting sip of coffee.

Earlier that morning, I found myself outside in the glaring summer’s sun without shades, wearing last night’s clothes, old and dirty, and smelling like sex.  My sandals on the sidewalk make a particularly tense clopping sound as I walked the block to my car, the wrong way first.  My face lit up as Pablo, my old reliable red Honda Civic, comes into view.  He starts right up, as always, and I proceeded home.

Last time I stayed the night there was in a particularly manic drunken state,where my intentions were not so clear and bold.  Nowhere as clear and bold as last night.  

I laid on my stomach, awoken by the morning sunlight, stark naked, with my head turned towards him.  For maybe half an hour, I drifted in and out of a sleep state, depending on what he was doing.  A few times he touched me in a way that revealed his intentions, but I wasn’t feeling like doing much but dozing off, hiding from the hangover that was starting to creep on.  There’s a comforting feeling in knowing that someone is watching you sleep, really genuinely caring, that redeemed his desires.  

It was only right that we had a night together before I leave, before I’ve disappeared completely.  It didn’t even need to be spoken.  I knew he knew.   Part of him may hope that it’ll happen again but I can tell you he’s brighter than that.  It’s hookup culture, baby.  I live intimately only in hours of drunken stupor.  It’s the only way I know how to open up again and again.

Now I sit, listening to my best friend talk, listening to her worry about everything about other people that she can’t control.  She cares a hell of a lot, I’ll give her that.  I explain things about the people that are causing her worries, that most people need different things from romantic relationships than us.  She understands then and calms down, accepting that different people have different needs.  We chat more waiting on our brunch, speaking now on friendship, as we often do, and comparing other peoples’ bond to our own.

“That’s it,” I realize, “I know I can always call you to just be around me.”  I pause briefly,  “But I also know that when I don’t want to be, you’re still ok.”

She nods in agreement, smiling and saying, “You’re my best relationship.”

 

The hardest part

The hardest part about having a friend who’s an addict in having a friend who’s an addict  There are times where they’re completely unable to be your friend, but they also aren’t capable of communicating it.  

Next thing you know, you’re waiting in a sketchy part of town in a Royal Farms parking lot for a more than reasonably average time it should take a person to shit in a public restroom.  You wait.  You don’t know what to do so you wait more.  

After fifteen minutes goes by you start to get mad, and if you’re me, mad means severe introversion.  You make resolution with yourself while you wait.  You decide to drop the person off at home, because it would be a completely shitty thing to leave them so far from home, still considering their feelings when they’re so inconsiderate of yours, because your mother raised you by the golden rule, but once you drop them at home, you tell yourself, you won’t talk to them anymore, at least for a month.  

You sit steaming in your resolution for ten or fifteen more minutes, but you stopped keeping track of how long it actually was once your temper started to flair.

They finally come out of the store, eyes low, unseemingly relaxed for just spending twenty five minutes locked in a public restroom.  They flop down in the passenger seat, and you know, immediately, that they’re high.  

You don’t speak.  You try to reason with yourself, trying to imagine the best possible scenario of them not using, in this seedy public restroom just outside the west side hood of Baltimore City.  You really hope inside that you’re jumping to conclusions and they just had to take a particularly uncooperative shit.

Then they open their mouth and justify your initial anger.  You’re mad that you even began to give them a second chance, all in that short ninety second period it took them to plop down in the car, close the door, and put on their seatbelt.  They don’t sniffle, so you know it’s really bad.  Then they want to tell you a story.  

You don’t want to hear it.

“This guy came beating on the door.”

I inferred it was a single stall restroom.  The right environment.

“I yelled out a him, ‘what? I’ll be out in a minute.”

The store clerk knew a junkie would hole up in his bathroom for a quick fix.

“I mean, jeez man, can’t a guy take a shit in peace?”

I barely respond, nodding only slightly as I back out of the parking spot.

As I look over my shoulder out the rear window of the car, I catch glances of my companion.  It’s dark, but I can make out some indicative body language.

He slouches forward in the entirety of his back and in his neck, his head has dropped a little lower than normal.  In his left hand, he grasps his phone, looking down at it, the light illuminates his face.  His features are overly relaxed.  His eyes appear to be only half open.  He doesn’t notice me sneaking glances at him.  He thinks that I’ve bought his lie and I leave it that way.