I made the mistake of showing my kids a few of the ice bucket challenges on my Facebook page. Next thing I knew, the kids were spending hours in the bathtub pouring water on themselves. With their clothes on. Actually, Sadie talked Simon into standing in the tub and while she poured water on him. When he said it was his turn to pour the water, she said, “Nah, I don’t really want to get wet.” Then, she poured more water on Simon.
Eventually, I got tagged. We took the party outside and filled a bucket full of ice and water. (Sorry, Africa, I’m an asshole.) Sadie put on her raincoat and boots and asked a neighbor to help lift the bucket. Jeff had me practice my spiel about ALS in a dry run. (Ha! Get it?)
Then, show time!
The ice, it was so cold. My daughter, her laugh was so bubbly. The neighbors, they so gamely joined us.
All good, right? We raised the money. We went out of our comfort zone. We taught the kids about why raising money and awareness for causes is a valuable use of our time.
Then, I watched the video.
Like a giant eraser smudging out all the joy, all I could see was my stomach. I zeroed in on my muffin top like a shipwrecked sailer spotting land. I could no longer hear my daughter’s infectious giggles or remember the thrill of having my breath taken away by the deluge of cold water on my head. Suddenly, this was no longer about anything except for a strip of my body between my breasts and my hips.
F*ck you, body image issues.
Seriously. I’ve got them and hate them. And I’m 41 years old. I’m supposed to be too busy, too feminist and too enlightened to do this. To fall into an obsession about how my body got this way, what I should do about it, and why didn’t anyone tell me things had gotten so … so … muffiny?
I want to get back to the joy of the afternoon. I want to crawl back on my hands and knees across the hot pavement of shame and be in that space of time before I saw myself and formed a judgment.
In the 18 hours since Jeff showed me the video, I’ve vacillated between two poles.
Pole one: I wish I had done the challenge standing up, not slumped in a stadium fold-up chair, so my stomach wouldn’t be so smooshed. I wish that I had just let my kids do the challenge and stayed out of the picture. I wish that all the desserts I’ve eaten in the past four years had been eaten by someone else. These wishes roll up into the meta-wish that the circumstances (my body) were different, or at least looked different.
Pole two: I wish I could just accept my 41-year-old body just as it is. It’s the same body that can run 8-minute miles for six miles. It’s the same body that housed two small children for nine months. I wish that when I saw the video I zeroed in on the love between me and Sadie or the look on Jeff’s face when it was his turn. These wishes roll up into a meta-wish that I didn’t need anything to be different for me to feel okay.
Whether I like it or not, I have a touch of body dysmorphia. I don’t really know what I look like. When I was 110 pounds, I remember crying to someone about feeling fat. She looked at me like I was crazy. Because I was. Still, it felt pretty real. Then and now.
So until this passes, I pray to be too busy parenting or writing or doing my job to spend too much time thinking about me and that strip of my body. Everytime I look down and see it, I smile and say, “Hi.” I’ve no idea why I am doing that, except it sounds so much more pleasant then, “Who let you in here? Get the f*ck out!”
I call that making peace until I can reach Pole two.