In the early morning, I had a dream. I threw away my bad opinions about my body and decided: I accept the body I have. I felt elated when I woke up, but staring in the mirror, I saw the same saggy middle with the wrinkles, a gift from those two pregnant bellies that also gave me my two wonderful kids. Reflected to me was the same face, the furrows splitting my forehead and the one right between my eyebrows that makes me look like I’m concentrating all the time. I saw the same feet and hands, eyes and nose. I began to have the exact same critical thoughts as before. But then I said: enough. It’s all good.
My nine-year-old daughter recently began to say she was fat. Hearing her say those words terrified me. “Why would you say that, my little angel? How can you think you’re fat?” I asked, and my voice trembled as thoughts of anorexia, bulimia and other obsessions invaded my mind. “Oh, I’m not fat fat,” she answered, “but I have a big belly.” And she pushed out her middle so it stuck out of her body like a toddler’s belly. I looked on with bafflement, not knowing what to say or do.
We are different, Eden and I. I dress in my hiking or gym clothes every day. I rarely put on jewelry and never any make-up. Eden, in contrast, loves to dress up. She takes a long time to choose what to wear to school in the morning. When we go to Shabbat dinner at my mom’s, Eden will often put on make up, lipstick and powder which she found in my drawer and appropriated for her own use. Her jewelry box overflows with necklaces and bracelets which she wears on a regular basis.
I’d have thought that she would not consider me a model for fashion sense or body image, considering how different we like to look. But I guess that though her choices of dress are more elaborate than mine, the way I speak of my body filters down to her and gives her ideas for criticisms of her own. Turns out that Vera, my esteemed pilates teacher, was right when she said (in response to my comment that I look fat today): Would you want anyone to say that to your daughter?
I don’t. And that’s why I’m making a commitment to myself and to my dream to be better at accepting myself as I am, to appreciate the beautiful body in which I was born, the only one that I have in this life. I will no longer complain of being fat or wrinkled or old. And maybe I’ll dress up a little nicer once in a while. Or put on a necklace. Or allow Eden to brush some powder on my cheeks and spread some lipstick on my mouth.
What do you do to accept and appreciate your body?