“You’ll be a pretty girl when you grow up” my dad said when I was probably around 10. I felt like I was in a car driving on the highway and hit a road block as soon as I heard this. I tried so hard to be what he wanted, to be someone he could tolerate spending any time with. Despite every effort of being a straight A student, never getting in trouble, never talking back, I realized in this moment, the only thing my father saw with admiration and approval was my pretty appearance, and not even now but later.
‘”Good lord you’re so skinny, do you even eat?” said an adult family friend when I was about 8, eating my favorite food at the time, KFC. It was said with such disgust I instantly knew my body was an enemy of mine, always standing in the way of the connection I so desperately craved from others. No one would see my thoughts or ideas, my talents or my spirit, but instead this cursed vessel that didn’t behave the way everyone else’s did and gain weight when I ate. This is still a common phrase I hear to this day. I knew early on that no matter the energy I brought into the room, the conversations I provided, I had to accept that the first thing anyone would notice about me would be my body first. My so called “perfect” body by societies standards created war in others everywhere I went. I did everything I could at different intervals in my life to mute my body for others. When I was a teen I ate everything I could get my hands on to no avail of gaining weight which meant I was stuck in size 000, barely big enough to shop in the Women’s section and be more grown up. So I wore sweaters to bulk up and ignored my apperance the best I could.
“You’re not gaining enough weight” My doctor told me at every single prenatal visit I went to. So I ate white bagels and chocolate sundaes every night to try and change that, to no avail. I spent a lot of my pregnancy being afraid that my weight would kill my baby. Fearing the doctors words, my husband, well meaning but not helpful, would make me meal after meal and remind me that I wasn’t big enough. Every time I couldn’t hold down the food I’d just eaten because of morning sickness I felt guilt that my body was working against everything everyone was telling me and I still I could do nothing about it.
“Did you steal that baby, you don’t look like you even gave birth” Said a nurse the day I left the hospital giving birth. Great so my body wasn’t doing motherhood right either, and the new moms I’d recently connected with would hate me for that too. I was convinced that I would have a chance to be seen as a mother who was giving motherhood her all and then some if I would just dress modestly. Maybe they won’t see my face as too young and just see me as a woman trying my best. No matter if I dressed down, dressed up or over dressed my body, my appearance created turmoil in others that was often directed at me and my body.
Even though I wore my pre pregnancy pants right after giving birth, my body wasn’t the same, my breasts were larger now. I knew the last thing I needed was another “perfect body standard” added to my frame. I hated my larger breasts, they didn’t fit in my t shirts, there were no cute nursing bras and if there were they gave me mastitis. My larger breasts poured milk everywhere all the time. I over produced milk, despite doing nothing to increase my supply. My body was again giving me a bittersweet gift. My baby was fed but no one understood what over production was like. There were no tips, there were no resources for too much milk. Alone because of my body again.
As a kid I was always drawn to natural birth TV shows. Not knowing it at the time but reflecting now I can see that in natural birth situations every person surrounding the mother believed in the woman’s body, not only that but they regraded it as something to be respected, a woman’s body was wise and all knowing. I gravitated towards pregnancy, towards natural birth and towards home birth because there was established appreciation of the female body here. I saw not only what a womans body was capable of but possibilities of trust in a female body that humans could be capable of. I started trusting my body when I was pregnant for my third child and I planned a home birth. I felt accomplished after giving birth at home. But not long after I felt the old things creep in, women sharing their distaste for home birth, or how they just couldn’t do it natural and while I heard their words, I felt their disconnection every time.
When I attended my first Bodysex circle, I wasn’t afraid of being nude, after all I have shit my pants repeatedly in a room full of family and nurses with norovirus, and felt not an ounce of embarrassment. Id accepted my body whether good or bad was going to illicit something in others that I couldn’t control. Attending my first workshop I was terrified of how my body would perform. Could I experience pleasure, even orgasm around others, or would I be alone in the room anxious and scared while everyone rolled around in pleasure. I talked with a roommate back at our cabin and found out she was terrified of the same thing as me. Already I wasn’t alone. I left that Bodysex circle feeling more connected with myself than I had in my life. I finally knew that I was lovable just as I was, that nothing anyone said could shake my love for myself because at my core, I no longer needed anyone but me. I was given every bit of education to trust in my body, and an experience of pleasure in my body that solidified that trust.
Masturbation is the practice of self love that brings me away from everyone else, and takes me to a place deep within me where I alone am there to love, hold, comfort, and enjoy myself. Where I am there to give my everything to me only. It is an experience in my body that reminds me I am enough, I am safe, and I am lovable just as I am. Do I avoid it at times in fear that I might not be loving enough to hold space for myself? Sure. Am I wrong every time? Certainly. Old patterns die hard, but I’m trying. I fought for years to believe that deep down I was enough for me, in every area of life, self acceptance, emotional validation all of it, and I still sometimes fall back into the old patterns of believing none of those things to be true. What I have learned is that my self love roots are burrowed into self stimulation and self pleasure. Each time I make the time to touch my vulva, and cherish each pleasurable tingle of validation that I am enough, I am reminded that my body is not an enemy but a best friend. A best friend who messes up, but deserves forgiveness. A best friend who needs rest and deserves it. A best friend who has needs, each of them beautiful. A best friend who deserves celebration. A best friend that shares her secrets with me and in turn listens when I share mine with her. Self love through self pleasure is the connection in which my body and my heart communicate. Im so grateful that I’ve finally learned this is the communication that matters most, that rings truer than all other words spoken.
Art by Betty Dodson DodsonandRoss.com
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