I'm Trying to Love My Belly, But I Just Can't

I try to look at my body's scars as healing and not as damning but the truth of the matter is, I kind of hate it.
Publish date:
November 30, 2011
feminism, body image, bellies, tumors, olivia singer, male feminists, hugo schwyzer, slutwalk

I’ve always had a weird relationship with my body. I’ve always tolerated it and taken care of it, but I can’t say I loved or liked it.

As an athlete growing up, I loved the functionality of it. I was strong. I was fast. My body moved how I wanted it to move.

I’ve been 5’3 since the 3rd grade. I was a big hulking presence next to these 80-pound, dainty princesses I grew up with in Oklahoma. I fancied myself a tomboy to make up for the lack of reciprocated crushes and pretty dresses. There wasn’t anything precious about me, so I decided to be fierce instead.

Now I look back at pictures and see that I was actually really small. If I had known then what I know now, I might have been posing for various Maxim type magazines that I created on Photoshop. So perhaps it’s better for us all that I didn’t know.

I hate my body now. It’s flabby and creaky and it doesn’t work the way I want it to.

Five years ago, this Wednesday, I gave birth to my son. My body turned on me during pregnancy. I had a 10-pound tumor in my uterus. I was in constant pain, in and out of hospitals for the seven or so months that I carried Boogie. It was the first time in my life that I felt disconnected to my body.

The tumor grew so quickly that I went from not pregnant to “Damn, how far along are you??” in 3 months. My belly grew so fast that my bones were unable to keep up, my hip went out a few times, I couldn’t sleep comfortably, I could barely move.

I was single, so nobody ever spoke lovingly about my body. It was a place of concern. My family, friends, even my doctors spent more time worried about it than they did helping me love it. Not that it was their job.

After my son was born, the tumor was still there. So I had a newborn and looked 6 months pregnant too. The stares were too much, so I barely left the house with him.

When my son was two months old, I finally had surgery to remove the tumor. I was relieved, so happy that I was finally going to get my body back. Baby was out. Tumor was leaving. I was going to work out and get back in shape and everything was going to be fine. Wrong.

Vanity isn't included in Medicare. My doctors removed the tumor and stapled me back up a bit crooked. My belly button is gone. In its place is this Frankenstein scar racing up my stomach. I have stretch marks from corner to corner and the skin stretched so much that no amount of Spanx can give me a flat belly. I hate it so much that I won’t allow anyone to look at it (sorry Emily).

Someday I want to get married and have more children maybe, but at 35, I don’t find it likely. Especially since I don’t feel comfortable around anyone enough to show them my belly or let them touch it intimately.

I suggest we turn the lights off and keep them off and most men say, “Sure. Whatever.” I’m sure there is someone out there that will insist that he wants to see it and I’ll probably hate him for it, so there goes that.

And I do work out. I go in and out of my past quests to get fit. Then I remember that no amount of toning will fix my belly and I get in fuck it why even bother with any of it mode. I’ll never look how I want to look, so I spend the time in bed doing everything but working out.

Because of how my body is, even my now-size 4 frame has to be carefully navigated. If I gain too much weight, the belly pokes out further. If I lose too much weight, the belly pokes out further. There’s a 10-pound weight range I hover around to keep things acceptable in my eyes.

There are moments when I’m proud of my body and all it's endured. I look at my son and how healthy he is, despite the tumor taking all his amniotic fluid and inducing labor 6 weeks early. I sometimes see the scar as a badge of courage. I even performed a poem I wrote for my unborn child on HBO's DEF Poetry Jam.

I try to look at it as healing and not as damning, but the truth of the matter is, I kind of hate it. I know it’s not feminist or empowering to say that, but it’s the truth.

Earlier this month, Emily emailed asking us to send pictures of our bellies. On the one hand, I wanted to to give some sort of false sense of fierceness. I wanted people to see the belly and remark on how brave I was to open myself up in that way, but I knew it would be false.

It felt far more honest and far more liberating to me to finally admit after 5 years that I can not stand this belly of mine. I’m going to tolerate it and deal with it and possibly invent some super alternative to Spanx. Then I can go on Oprah and convince her to pay for my tummy tuck.