Photograph by Liora K
I remember the exact moment that the concept of someone finding me attractive became even a remote possibility. I was 20 years old (TWENTY), talking to a friend when they said with a snicker, “Can you believe Henry thinks you’re hot?!?”
This sentence came to me as a question because “Henry” was not one to be flattered by. He didn't have girls lining up to date him and he didn't possess any qualities of a good catch, but these details were lost on me. I was still shocked and stunned by the fact that ANY homosapien on this planet would find my body attractive.
Growing up, I felt so desexualized that the promise of any sort of physical appreciation was inconceivable, even in my future. Yet here I was. A male found me sexy. It was within this moment that my wheels started turning -- and thus began my two-year stint with reckless and hedonistic debauchery.
Dun dun DUN!
I really wish I could say that I never stepped foot into the word of endless one-night stands based purely on attention toward my body. I wish that I grew up thinking that I was beautiful NOT ONLY on the inside, but on the outside as well. I wish that I was raised to celebrate, love, cherish and appreciate my body for all of the wonderful things that it does and is, but I wasn't.
I grew up mortal enemies with my body; so much so that I was completely and utterly detached from it. Me and My Body were separate entities all together; fused only by physical proximity. My body was the friend that people tolerated so they could hang out with the rest of me. My poor body. So hated, reviled, ignored, camouflaged, shunned, demoralized and loathed. My body was neglected and famished for attention and so I jumped at the chance to be with whoever would have me.
Self-esteem is complex, diverse and impossible to fully understand. What I do know is that our personal views on ourselves are comprised of every interaction we have ever had in our whole life. The associations from your early childhood (especially infancy) count more than the rest. If you learned, even subconsciously, that you were not OK, well my friend, it's an uphill battle for the rest of your life.
“Fat women learn early that they should take male attention wherever they can get it, because what self respecting man would want to fuck a fat woman? Not only does this knowledge reinforce the idea that fat women do not deserve to be seen, but it also positions fat women as targets for men looking for an easy lay- she’ll take what she can get, regardless of what she actually desires, and consider herself lucky. The idea of such a woman saying no is inconceivable.” -- Lesley Kinzel (Two Whole Cakes)
When it comes to sexuality and body image, life is especially hard on women. Overweight women are taught that we have failed at something that is unforgivable, and that failure decreases our worth as human beings. We have committed the worst sin, should be punished, and if we get any attention we should be eternally grateful that the fat gods have smiled down on our pathetic sub-human selves.
I believed it. Thanks to the shitty self-esteem I accumulated throughout my previous 21 years, I was easily seduced, fucked, discarded and then used as a ladder to get to more attractive (read: worthwhile) girls while enjoying the climb. All of this would start and end in quick succession, and I had no idea that I should have been bothered. I was just amazed that I got so much attention.
I am not concerned about the number of people that I slept with. Grown-ass adults can sleep with as many (or as few) people as they damn well like. This doesn’t make me ANY of the crass names that people like to call sexually active women.
But I am concerned about the intent behind my escapades. I wasn't purposefully giving my awesome woman-ness away, I was letting anyone and everyone take it. I wasn't bestowing upon, I was being stolen from. I didn’t value myself and so therefore the interactions themselves had no value.
I don't like the way I treated my body back then. It has nothing to do with being perceived as a "loose woman" (being a loose woman can be fun!), but rather everything to do with the fact that I deserved better. Better intentions and better care. I wish I would have said yes when I wanted yes, and no when I wanted no. That simple.
After those debaucherous years and the following few wherein I dated a sex addict (sex equals love, right?), I started to catch on to the fact that I was being duped. When each rendezvous ended, I was left with just as much self-hatred as before. I started to see that physical lovin’ wasn’t my cure for self-loathing. I slowly and consciously started to learn how to say yes and how to sayno, giving both my psyche and body the chance to choose what they actually wanted. I started liking myself a little more each day and soon after and attracted/captured my Him. With his support I have dabbled with the concept of falling in lovewith myself, an idea that had never been in my periphery before.
I am still and will probably always be on the journey toward accepting my body. We’ve been enemies for so long that to expect an immediate truce would be asinine. I have both good days and bad days throughout the week and when the former outweighs the latter, I call it a success. I feel loved by my Him more than anyone else and it isn't because he only sees what's inside of me. He finds what’s inside ANDoutside of me beautiful, and that is what has allowed me to begin to feel the same.