I’m in the midst of a crisis: I just realized that one of the singular events that not only helped me survive is also the single experience that inhibits me the most from growing. When a weight that helped build strength becomes a heavy burden, it is time to put it down and rest. That is easier said than done.
When I was about 10 years old I was still tiny. I was the same size all the way from 3rd grade until about 7th. I just didn’t have a growth spurt until 8th grade, which lasted me until about 11th. I didn’t change much from 12th grade through college and after graduation. Only very recently have I been able to gain muscle mass. In other words, I’ve always been small, especially compared to others my age. What is the point of all this, you ask?
My dad was fairly indiscriminate about using corporal punishment. It was random, sudden, violent, and terrifying. Generally he was extreme. After one incident, whereby I was bent forward in front of the jam of a door frame, I was struck so hard from behind that I fell forward and hit the back of my head against the edge of the frame. I was a tad disoriented, but instead of crying I got up and looked my dad in the face and said, “I will never be fat, and I will never have a mustache.” I walked away, his face stunned, feeling very powerful for standing up to him.
That act of defiance made me feel better able to deal with bullies throughout the rest of my life. Unfortunately, it also planted a seed that eventually sprouted into full-blown anorexia. It didn’t help that being a trained dancer comes with its additional weight-focused baggage, or that I had to look at myself in mirrors constantly for almost a decade. At any rate, whether I like it about myself or not, I have become, for lack of a better word, addicted to pursuing the almost unattainable standards of conventional beauty: Aspiring to it for myself, chasing after it in others, bowing before it despite the destructive personalities often attached to it…
So then, here it is: Most, if not nearly all, of my relationships have been with “hot” guys who are horrible both to me and for me. I was conversing with a friend last night. (No, I’m not abusing the term – he is a friend.) In the context of the conversation I had to look at a very ugly part of myself: I am willing to overlook all sorts of red flags, simply to have access to physical beauty and be accepted by those who have it. This has caused me no end of grief, my last relationship going so horribly awry that I’ve been single for two years as I try to regain my financial and emotional stability.
What does this say about me? I do not like this part of myself at all. It feeds a destructive cycle, whereby I give myself and others too much or too little value simply because of appearance. Am I not mature enought in mind, generous enough in spirit, and kind enough in heart to recognize how horrible that must make other people (and myself) feel?
I’m finally beginning to achieve my fitness goals, and rather than being content or pleased I feel confused and shallow. On the one hand my friend said to me that he is saddened by this attribute in me, that I focus so much on someone’s looks that I ignore his personality (or lack thereof). He didn’t mean for this to happen, but that only added to my embarrassment and revulsion at my own superficiality. On the other hand, an online acquaintance who is also an adult entertainer told me, “Let your fitness goals assist your spirit. Treat the looks as a happy side effect of nourishing the god in you.” I have to learn this, it’s not something I know how to do.
Stature has been so important to me. I had none and was the focus of life-threatening bullying. The people who had it seemed omnipotent. They were “beautiful,” god-like. I wanted that trength – it made the world safer, and made the bullies attractive, despite their meanness. My size made me invisible to the gay men who were “beautiful.” I was targeted by straights but invisible to gays. Not a good feeling.
Now I’m neither bullied nor invisible, but I feel no better. To be respected and desired because of the heavy objects I lift, rather than for the thoughts I think or smiles I share, has become a very empty reward. All that work and effort to achieve what exactly?
I put on a thong the first time just to see if I was as repulsive as I thought. In retrospect that was a catch-22: Failure would simply reinforce a negative self-imge, success would feed a destructive self-value system.
How many times have I hurt myself or others, consciously or unconsciously, because of this? How much of a hypocrite am I that I say I don’t like people being judged for how they look when that is exactly what has helped form my entire identity and is the means by which I make money? I do not regret or despise what I do for a living, because I love performing and I know that I do bring people who appreciate me some form of happiness; however, I have to also begin to understand how I can form a healthier relationship with appearances.
Everyone is precious (including me, dammit!). Everyone is a treasure to somebody. The time has come to collect more diamonds (which are beautifully faceted on the outside, but also luminous and brilliantly scintillating on the inside), rather than so many coins (which may or may not be shiny, but are flat and two-faced – one side of which is always hidden). Or does that analogy in and of itself still anchor me too much to surfaces?