I say it under the dim bathroom light: I. Am. Beautiful.
I take solace in the light on my face. I take solace in the light on my skin, on the fat that creases and bulges. I hold my stomach in my hands, squish and squash my love handles. Rub my flank, along the length of ribs, down to the pelvis. The stretch marks are lines on paper; they’re crooked and scribbled on my skin. Each line and L, elongated.
I love my body. Sometimes I love it more, and sometimes I love it less. And in the past, I’ve doubted my temple. I’ve fed it horrible things like stress and butter and beer.
I’ve hated it, slapped my stomach in front of the mirror, left red marks and scratches. I’ve made faces at my overweight self: pig-nosed wide mouthed. I’ve even cut my thighs, made new lines, new Llllllllls.
I remember where I started: I am beautiful. I put the magazine down. I stop reading the lines about how to fit in my jeans better (or for that matter, how to fit in). I tell the page it doesn’t know me like I know me. I tell myself I’m not a model. I tell myself the models are not even models. They are made of wood held together by string.
I stand in front of the mirror. My skin is a white sheet of paper. My eyes are two buckets of brown dirt. I don’t cry anymore over my curves. I feed my body apples, pears, and squash. I feed it squats and walks. I wash the sweat off from my workout in a warm, lavender-scented shower. The shower is a lake from a dream I had.
I don’t body-shame myself. I don’t let others body shame me either. I’m responsible for how I see myself in this world, in this long and wide world of hurtful words and scams of the heart.
Go now. This is not a body of hate. This body does not hate itself. There’s nothing here to consume, but love. Self-sabotage is a hand that does not hurt me anymore. My body sings me to sleep. My body is ground, gravel, twigs, and brambles.
My feet dangle from the bed. I examine the cracked skin, the dried patches on the tops of my toes. I see my legs, freckled and chubby, against the cat’s back. I rub my arms, the stretched skin, too.
I pull my messy hair back in a bun and sigh deep and slow. The room is quiet.
The bathroom mirror is quiet. There is no sound—only my heart, gentle and warm, and it says, Thank you for loving me again. And my fingers rest on my chest. They can hear the sound of my heart.
I push myself off the bed and look in the long, wooden framed mirror. All those spots. All those scars and scabs. All those dimples in the thigh.
It’s all a poem to me.
This piece is an excerpt from My Body, My Words, edited by Loren Kleinman and Amye Barrese Archer with book cover art by Marisa Gershenhorn. It will be released on March 1 by Big Table Publishing.
My Body, My Words will bring a chorus of strong voices to the body positivity revolution. What was once a whisper, is quickly becoming a roar. With commitments from writers like Beverly Donofrio (Riding in Cars with Boys), Martha Frankel (Hats and Eyeglasses), Abigail Thomas (What Comes Next and How to Like It), and more. My Body, My Words will offer readers and educators the unique experience of finding all of these voices in one place.
More from BUST
The Internet Got Our Compatibility Wrong — And My Body Told Me So (By Not Pooping)
On Being Fat In Ways White Girls Don't Understand
Weight Watchers Is Offering Free Memberships To Teens — And That's A Problem
Loren Kleinman has published four full-length poetry collections: Flamenco Sketches, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, Breakable Things, and Stay with Me Awhile, and a memoir The Woman with a Million Hearts. Her poetry has appeared in Drunken Boat, The Moth, Columbia Journal, Patterson Literary Review, and more. Her nonfiction has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Times, ROAR, Ploughshares, Open Minds Quarterly, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Seventeen, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, and The Huffington Post. Follow her at www.lorenkleinman.com.