10 Book Week is gone at this point, but I’ve been thinking about this essay for a little while now, so I will still post it.
I think about my body; I think about it daily. I think about how I can’t run as fast as I used to, and how I am just now back up to 12 pushups. I think how I am strong enough to pick up my son and throw him in the air and cross the street in the time allotted on the crosswalk display. I smile and nod along whenever I hear Regina Spektor belt out “I’ve got a perfect body because my eyelashes catch my sweat, yes they do!”
I think about my body because I am alive, and it is impossible not to.
But there is a difference between acknowledging something and thinking about something. There are also bigger words for these ideas, but I have never claimed to be a philosopher.
When did I first become conscious of my body? Maybe when I fell and skinned my knee and saw the red blood trickling out of my veins when I was three or four. Those knees were permanent scabs from tag on the concrete, falling off my bike, and soccer matches on the weekend. Some scars I still have.
When did I first feel disappointment with it, perhaps when I wanted it to score more soccer goals when I was in middle school, or when I hit puberty and discovered whatever it is that girls discover that makes them want to be thinner.
I could say that I think about the Body a lot because I am a woman. Or because I am (and was raised) a Christian. Or because I am a mother. Or because I come from an overweight family. Or because I was born in 1985 and came of age in the early 2000s. Or because I have worked a long time with the mentally and physically disabled. Or because I am an athlete.
Because of all this and I’m sure much more, I think about the body in certain ways, but of course, I still think about it.
These are the books that have helped me think about it in different ways too, sussing out the nuances of certain aspects I’ve named: femininity, christianity, disability.
I feel like I could write a different essay for each of these books, and maybe one day I will.
The Bible – For a Christian perhaps the most vital and life giving thought, that we are made in the Imago Dei, the Image of God, and as such have our worth and value. Furthermore that our body’s may be temples of our God, and that in him we live, and move and have our being. It’s poetry people, pure poetry! Even when it is called cliched and twisted
The Best Little Girl in the World – by Steven Levinkron – The book that first introduced me (and I think, based on reviews, many others) to eating disorders in high school, which I think I researched and read about unhealthily for the next five years. Do all teenage girls go through this phase? Is it possible to skip disordered eating in high school? I would like to meet someone who has.
Life in the Fat Lane – By Cherie Bennet – One of the better written (I think) Teen Lit books about being fat. A pageant winning girl develops a disease that makes her fat and she suddenly finds out how to look at the inward character instead of outer appearances. Cliche? Definitely. But I really like this book.
On Female Body Experience – Iris Marion Young. The first book that introduced me to the concept of being feminine but not female, masculine but not male, the ideas of phenomenology, and lived body experience. What a good little collection of essays this was.
The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf. Extreme Feminism? Yes. Provocative. Also Yes. But, honestly, I hadn’t thought about half the stuff in this book at 21 when I read it (objectifying women in advertising… etc), , so it was also a pretty radical eye opener in that regard.
Fat is a Feminist Issue – Susie Orbach – Another feminist book, an interesting take on dieting and weight loss. Probably a good read for any woman who has spent some amount of time thinking about this. Also, not as radical as the Naomi Wolf book, and slightly outdated at this point… but still, good.
Rethinking Thin – Gina Kolata. The first book I ever encountered that went into the science behind why dieting is difficult and why most people gain all the weight (and then some) back after they diet. (It’s not the answer (read: willpower) you think either.). Since then I’ve probably read another half dozen in that vein but with different conclusions. But you never forget that first one.
The Pilates Body – by Brooke Siler. Probably my first introduction into an exercise that wasn’t about losing weight or competing, but simply about experiencing the body. This changed the way I thought about exercise when I encountered in at 20.
Down Syndrome and Theology – Amos Yong. What type of body will we have in the new heaven and the new earth, and what does “healed” mean in that context. A deeper look at disabilities from a Christian perspective.
Living Gently in a Violent World – Written by theologian Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, (the founder of L’Arche), a spiritual organization which assists adults with disabilities throughout the world in their daily living. This book is intended to cause you to pause in your living and slow down, especially to consider those who are more fragile and to understand why it is their pace we should strive to live at.
Obviously, there’s a lot of perspectives you can’t cover in this type of list because there are dozens of ways to think about the body.
I’d certainly be interested to hear anyone else’s stories/books that shaped their views on bodies: their own or other people’s.