i want to change my body. sometimes.
i’ve always had a fraught relationship with my body. acne as an adolescent. body hair. i had huge anxiety over how hairy my legs became when i was young. when i was twelve or thirteen my mother said to me, “your legs are as hairy as an indian blanket. like your father's.” it was a joke to her, but i felt as if the hair on my legs was disgusting, unsightly. it produced in me a self-consciousness and worry about being abnormally hirsute and unattractive. i hated how i could not be in control of this. my body would betray me no matter what i did. a forest of hair would continue to grow and expand, covering my entire body, rendering me repulsive. i wanted to be normal: hairless like the other guys i saw undressing in the locker room at school or like the brawny, tanned, and hairless twenty-something jocks on mtv.
i never grew out of being skinny. not sporty, not active as a kid, i have always been a tiny, bookish nerd. in adolescence i realized one didn’t just grow up into a man, fill out, gain muscle, become stronger, look more masculine. one had to work for that. and that seemed out of my control as well. i kept the body of a twelve year old. i weighed around one hundred pounds throughout high school, and still weigh only on average 125lbs.
some of that is fat. i haven’t been eating well recently, and if you’ve read my previous posts, you know i drink a lot. a lot. so i’ve put on a bit of flub. nothing i couldn’t work off. maybe. but i’ve always carried a bit of fat. a little. and that tiny bit always worried me, made me feel unattractive.
when i started college, i gained about thirty pounds as a freshman. i saw pictures of myself and didn’t recognize myself in them. the next year i started running. a little at first, then longer and longer distances more frequently. i tried to skip lunch. i ate a lot of adderall to help me study, and didn’t mind that it suppressed my appetite. i stopped eating but every other day if i could help it. i ended up seeing this man, a twenty-seven year old neurobiologist finishing post-doctoral research at the university. he would come to my apartment and instead of dinner i would drink a bottle of wine and get drunk. my date did not seem to mind since i was a twenty year old and the drink only made me more pliable and obliging. needless to say, the relationship did not develop far, but i ended up feeling ridiculous, drunk and hungry and unhealthy. i recalibrated my idea of a diet.
now i’m twenty-seven and i’ve recently had sex with this nineteen year old a couple times. he’s a sweet boy. he has a great body: toned, hairless, young. attractive, he’s not someone i want to have a relationship with, but sex with him is easy and fun.
i also recently fooled around with a man a little older than myself. tall, swarthy, hairy, muscular. he turns me on. i like feeling his thick chest hair through my fingers. my taste in men has changed a lot through the years. at some point in trying to accept my own body, i ended up accepting everyone else’s body. how can one not? i cannot judge. i find myself attracted to hairy men, men balding or with receding hairlines, men with beer bellies. nothing classic. men nothing like models.
when i have sex with the nineteen year old boy or some other man, i do not feel anxiety over my body. whomever he is can take it or leave it. and i don’t mind going nude at the beach, or undressing at the gym, or laying out half naked in the yard to tan. revealing my body to a man with whom i might have a connection scares me though. during sex i worry that the other man will find my body repulsive. i consider my flaws. i see myself through his eyes. the other gentleman i recently took home calls me handsome, and after we had sex, laying there in my bed he told me i was gorgeous. it feels amazing to feel beautiful and appreciated in the gaze of someone else. yet irrationally i don’t trust that feeling.
my hairy legs do not worry me any longer. and though i could be in better shape physically, i don’t feel ashamed of my body. mostly i know that i could drink less beer to lead a healthier life and get more accomplished. yet at the same time, i have to admit that part of the allure of that discipline, of working out and building a toned and muscular body, is the control it promises: control of myself, command of the gaze of others.
the little bit of time i spend at the gym each week, the runs i take through the neighborhood are meditative. it gives me an hour at least without talking to anyone (unless i randomly say hi to an acquaintance at the gym); i am away from my phone, not receiving messages or calls. like in yoga, my mind is concentrated is focused on the confluence of mind and body, shedding that illusion that they’re separate, a duality. but i must accept that i do not need to go to the gym, i do not need to work out for any purpose than that i like engaging in that discipline (read: foucault.) it’s part of accepting myself, my body, my mind, my limitations. it’s this living, this living, this living, however it may have never been a project of mine.
but i could also do to just cut back on how much i indulge in beer. at the end of the summer. maybe.