Life in this Body

As I was driving to work this morning, searing pain ripped through me, running down both sides of my head, down my neck and into my arms. My arms became so heavy, I had to drop my hands lower on the steering wheel. This is nothing new, a symptom of the trauma my body has been through via car accidents, but this morning it was more painful, or I was more tired, or this retrograde has me in knots. For whatever reason, I couldn’t just roll with it like I usually do. I pulled over to the side of the highway, let my arms droop, stomped my floor board, yelling, “Fuck it!!” I sat there for a few minutes, letting some tears flow, realizing what Fuck it meant. It meant Fuck this body. I don’t want it any more. I envisioned myself unzipping it like a suit, stepping outside and soul kicking it into the abyss. Stepping into another body? Maybe. I didn’t get that far. I had to get to work, so the fantasy was over as I pulled myself together and got back on the highway. This is my life in this body, but I wasn’t the first one to hate it. My mother hated it first.

“I gave you life,” she always said, “Everything you are, you get from me.” Wondering if she’d like this body back, having so thoroughly cursed it.

“I hope you never have a baby,” she used to say to me because I cried when she scrubbed a scraped knee too hard and poured rubbing alcohol on the open wound. “You can’t take pain like this, you shouldn’t have a baby.” “You probably won’t. You’re going to be cursed with female problems your whole life.”  I was about 4 years old when I was taught to worry about not being fit to have a baby and a bleak future of having female problems. She never taught me how to write my name or tie my shoes, but she sure prepared me for a life of probable infertility. This is the same woman who used to make fun of mothers who read parenting advice books.

By the age of 16, I was having “female problems.” I got my own insurance through my job as a waitress, and started seeing a gynecologist.  My body was considered never likely to conceive a child. Scarring from abuse, endometriosis, and a prolactinoma were medical reasons. I never really thought it was a matter of science or medicine. I was certain nothing good could ever come from me. My body had been spoiled, right? I figured that meant my soul had been too. When I did actually get pregnant as an adult,  it took 7 home pregnancy tests, a blood test, and finally, an ultrasound revealing that precious little lima bean with the blinking light, to make me truly believe it.  “That’s your baby’s heart beat,” the technician said, and she held my hand as I cried. Even as my heart exploded, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew I was not worthy of carrying a child in this body. Somehow, the miracle happened, though. I was high risk, horribly ill, threw up so much I couldn’t even take prenatal vitamins because they came right back up. But, despite this body, despite her curses, that beautiful little soul was meant to be here. And for whatever divine grace, he was meant to be mine. I always wanted more. I wanted a little girl next. It never happened, and eventually I got really sick, and they took everything, to save my life, to save this body, which is now woefully incomplete.

“You’ll have weight problems your whole life,” she said to me, when I was slight, slender, even frail looking little girl, 6 years old. She never made any bones about the fact that she hated my body. I know why she hated it. When I was 8 years old, I got out of the tub and didn’t remember I’d left my towel in my bedroom, directly across the hall. I ran directly across the hall naked to grab my towel and she stormed into my room and slapped me hard across the face, asking me what I thought I was doing. I told her I forgot my towel and she didn’t believe me. She told me it was my own fault that Bruce couldn’t keep his hands off me. Then she noticed my curtains were open and she asked me if I was trying to get the neighbor boys to look at me too. She picked me up from behind under my arms and held me in front of the window, saying “Is this what you want?” I honestly wondered if she was right, but the truth is that I was already so ashamed of my body I didn’t want anyone to see me naked. From that day, she never missed a chance to accuse me of  seducing Bruce.  Even something as simple as taking him a glass of Iced Tea when he asked me to as he was working on his car made her grab the glass out of my hand, hissing, “He’s my husband, not yours. I have to live with him the rest of my life. You go flaunt yourself somewhere else.” I was 9 years old, and honestly had no idea what flaunting meant. If I had, the irony wouldn’t have escaped me. I hated my body.

I hated my little girl body that was beaten for eating things that I wasn’t supposed to eat, that got hungry, that somehow lured a grown man to do things to it, even though I tried to hide from him, that was fat, (even though I was probably a little underweight) that hurt all the time from having a broken tail bone, being thrown into walls, from bruises that people had to notice but never cared enough to mention. I hated the little body that my mother hated so much she let her husband use it however he wanted and made me believe it was my fault.

Stepping out of and away from this body has been a dream as long as I can remember. I dreamed it over and over and over, and every time that drunk bastard touched me. I went to my room and imagined stepping out of that body and floating away to nothingness. Every time she hissed at me that I was flaunting my body and trying to steal her husband, I imagined it. Every time I hid in the woods, lay under the moon, when it was time to go back home, I imagined it. Every time I was poked in the stomach at school and called Shelli the belly and smelly Shelli,  I imagined it. Every time she told me I looked like her, I imagined it. It is my most frequent fantasy. It is always with me,  days that I have more pain, days that I don’t what is next in my life, days that I can’t imagine things getting better, days that I imagine I’m back there still, with them. Days I don’t want this life in this body.

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