I do my best work, some of my deepest thinking, in the shower. This is where I figure out why I ignored that perfectly nice boy I worked with at Barnes and Noble who crushed on me to instead date the chronically unstable bass player I met at a club. This is where I compose emails, where I pick at relationship knots, where I internally conduct an entirely believable and hilariously brilliant interview with Stephen Colbert. The soaping, scrubbing, shaving and sloughing are their own circadian rhythm that unshackles the mind. I am at my least self-conscious in the shower.
But I surprised myself the other day when I broke whatever ruminations were tripping through my brain and impulsively grabbed the tummy pudge that I had just been soaping, the one I have had in various incarnations since I was 12, to utter a disgusted, Uggh.
And then just as quickly, I gasped and whispered, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," smoothing my slippery hands over the modest hill of skin and muscle the way a mother soothes her fussy child. I meant it. In some ways, it felt worse than the time in elementary school when I regrettably joined in with a group of girls to tease one of our class outcasts, Ellie Swett (three guesses what rhymes with Ellie? Admittedly not my finest moment).
This was my body I was offending. It gives me life and strength. It is the most sophisticated operating system on the planet gifted to us, no money down, no strings attached. It expects so little in return other than the basic sustenance to keep the gears clicking, the motor humming. My body carries me when my spirit is unwilling as if to say, "I got this. I'll take care of things until the rest of you is ready to show up." How could I be so insensitive?
But we are, aren't we? We administer a thousand mental and verbal paper cuts to our bodies every day. Most of the time, we're not even wholly conscious of what we're saying, slipping into the same kind of autopilot that takes over in the shower. Phrases like "bat wings" and "thunder thighs" invade and retreat with clockwork reliability so that we hardly notice the scars they leave behind. When you insult another person to their face the effect is immediate, swift and devastating. Why should we think of what we say to and about our bodies any differently?
I'm grateful for Lorde, who recently posted untouched photos of herself on Twitter. I'm thankful for Mindy Kaling putting it out there that she has no desire to take on the skinny label, that she acknowledges and celebrates her own always-evolving journey of self-improvement. I'm mad about the organization I work with, I AM THAT GIRL, and what we're doing to help girls discover, love and BE their authentic selves. But I am impatient, and I'm not waiting or counting on industry to catch up to the rest of us who are thirsty for meaningful change, and who are brave enough to do the work of healing, of repair, of taking responsibility for your words and actions. Our bodies don't ask for our love, but they deserve it, and it's up to us and only us to give it.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I said again, pressing my hand to my stomach as if to shield her from further injury, as a way of sealing a silent pledge to do better, to do right by her as she has always done by me.
This post originally appeared on I AM THAT GIRL