Hosea 14, for Nov 2008 by Rev. George Miller
“I like what I see when I’m looking at me/And I’m walking across the mirror”Mary J. Blige, “Just Fine”
If you’re a fan of R&B or have danced at Diversions anytime Timmy spins, you have no doubt heard the affirmative words of this song from La Blige. If there has been a more positive song to come out over the last twelve months, I’m not aware of. But, as anyone who has followed Mary’s love and life knows, it’s taken her a long time to get to such a place of body and soul self acceptance.
For the last few months I’ve been thinking about my body and the bodies of those around me: those portrayed in the media and those that belong to people I know. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is an awful amount of body dysmorphia (false sense of body image) going around, and I don’t like it.
What first brought this to my attention were some films I watched: “Black Christmas” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” Both movies share the same idea: the killer’s journey into madness and murder began with their own imperfect visage. In “Christmas” the killer was born with jaundice, resulting in hate from parents and hate of self. In “Massacre” the main character, shamed by his appearance, takes to self mutilation, eventually killing a man with a perfect face so he can wear it as his own, the end result being unsettling gruesome. This notion that people can become violent sociopaths-paths because of their looks seems almost like quasi-post-Freudian excuses, but don’t we all know people (or even ourselves) who are hurting/killing ourselves to look perfect?
For example, I recently went home for my 20th High School Reunion. My two best friend’s who I’ll call Barbie and Ken (because that’s just what they look like), spent a large amount of time talking about their bodies. Barbie, who is 38 but looks in her twenties and is beautiful in every way, went on and on about how hard it was to find something that fits, and announced that she took a diuretic that morning to get into her outfit. Mind you, the month before she had competed in a competition wearing high heels and a bikini. Ken, who recently came out of the military (and is straight), talked about calories: “I danced for two hours which means I lost about a pound, but I gained it all back in what I ate.” Then I find out another dear friend has been battling anorexia to the point of multiple hospitalizations.
This has prompted me to look back at my own journey. How much time, energy have I spent talking about, watching over, worrying about my weight, my looks, my skin, the ever changing shape of my body? How many of my friends have done this? How long have I believed the cause (and therefor the salvation) to all my problems stemmed in how I looked and what I weighed? As much as I love my friends, have we each, in turn enabled the other to create unrealistic and unhealthy notions of what our body should look like, therefor tying all of our happiness to how we look?
I returned from the reunion with newer ears. “Will and Grace” I love and laugh at, but it hurts to hear Jack calling Will fat when Will is far from it. I recall one line from the series in which Jack explained that “Straight skinny is very different from homo skinny” and I cringe. I went out dancing and met a guy my age who is hot and desirable in every way, from his youthful looks, to his successful and fulfilling job to his waist that is abut 2/3 my size. He was invited to join a group of us for dinner and he refused, pulling at the waist of his jeans saying he was trying to lose five pounds. He gave up the option of fellowship, fun and making new friends all for an unrealistic and unhealthy goal of five pounds.
The truth, though, is this: I can relate, and I bet a lot of us in the LGBT community can.
So, like La Blige, I am finally coming to my own place where I am appreciating my body. Lately, I’ve resumed exercising not to look fabulous, but to be fit. I run, not to abuse my body, but to love it back. I’ve been stocking my house with the foods I like so I have them when I want them, and somehow, someway, the bag of M&Ms has lasted me two weeks as opposed to the one night I would normally consume them in.
I have a belly. I have a fleshy back. My once square jaw is more like an oval. And my butt is no longer the booty it used to be. But I still have my eyes allowing me to see my friends, my ears allowing me to hear the sound of my niece and mama’s voice, I still have my hands allowing me to pet and hold my cat., and for better and for worse, I look like me. Me; no one else, but me.
This body we have is ours: and it is a gift from God. This body is mine. And it has taken 38 years to come to this place- but I love it. May you love yours too. Amen.
Rev. Miller is the pastor at Burlingame Congregational UCC located in Wyoming, MI. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at pastoralsole.blogpsot.com