When I was younger I hated my body.
I was too tall too soon, I went through puberty a year or two ahead of everyone else and I stood out like a penis at a vagina party. I woke at the ripe old age of twelve with a caterpillar permanently entrenched upon my lip and a baritone Barry White would have been proud of. I felt defenseless, unable to hide myself in the crowd, exposed by my own body for the freak I truly knew I was inside. My gormless appearance matched my vision of myself and I could do nothing to hide it. I was humiliated, bullied and attacked daily for a biological progression I could do nothing about. Every attempt to hide it and fit in only made me seem even stranger and diverted me further from my path, my true nature. I remember the artist Robert Crumb talking about how being the ‘real’ you just makes people think you’re nuts.
I could relate.
To me, the popular, accepted boys were a disturbing breed; obsessed with sports, homophobia and acting in barbaric ways toward small and innocent creatures; namely me. But girls loved them, were lining up to go out with them which confirmed to me that book covers are very much what a book is judged by and my book cover was fucking weird. Surely I was no more offensive of personality than the boys who would gather weekly to play soggy biscuit (look it up), degrade the girl of their choice in a publicly sexual away and punch people smaller and weaker than they. Yet they got the girls attention while I wasn’t even deserving of their glances.
The world had its skin pulled inside out, it was inversed and not in any shape which made sense to me.
And my aesthetics were entirely to blame.
I was skinny. My legs were hairy and turned to spaghetti as they disappeared into my oversized shoes. My wrists were feeble. My arse was hairy. My hair curled. It was ‘mousy’ brown. My front teeth were too big. My back teeth were too small. I had acne. My ears were disproportionately large. I had forearms like Popeye. The rest of my arms were like Olive Oyl’s. My skin was grey. My facial hair was laughable. My posture was stooped. My height betrayed me to all.
In a cruel quirk of fate, my sexuality was fuelled by kindness, which left me sexless in the world having no access to kindness of any kind. Trust became a paralyzing necessity for me to feel sexual in any way, a condition which followed me my entire life. Was this unusual? Should it have been? Did other teens even ask these kinds of questions? Should i just play Sonic The Hedgehog and shut up?
As I traversed my teens, my response to this mass of disgust I carried around which was laughingly called ‘a body’ was to abuse it completely. Punk celebrated ugliness and accepted all so I found a home there. Comics required no physical representation whatsoever so I found a home there. I celebrated ideas through writers such as Brendan Behan, Dylan Thomas, William Burroughs; musicians like Tom Waits, Shane MacGowan and Nick Cave. Not only were they all ugly as fuck, but their particular celebrations of the mind also included the degradation of the body. It was everything I had ever wanted. Substance abuse had never seemed so appealing. It helped me feel whole and accepted, at least within myself, whilst simultaneously waging war against my mortal enemy; my body. Your body is a temple and i took great joy in taking a hammer and chisel to it, felt i was hammering away at every expectation that others had set upon it and me; every judgement, every harsh word. Every pain to my body was a refusal, an attempt at least regarding how low others eyes had made me feel within myself.
Yet over time, age began to effect its own changes upon my body. Hate dimmed to a simmering anger and then into concern as bones began to ache and muscles refused to work as they had previously. Time and age brought other changes with it also. Those teen boys who i had compared myself so disparagingly to in my youth bloomed into frumpy, uninteresting shadows, locked in states of arrested development, unfulfilled and contributing nothing to no one. The saying ‘early to ripe, early to rot’ rang in my ears constantly.
I began to, I think the term is, ‘grow into myself.’
The unthinkable happened; I began to appreciate my body. In all the years I had tried to kill it, it had proven itself strangely resilient. Now, where others had grown fat and unfit, I found myself still incredibly capable, strong even. I had never had the urge to become a ‘muscle man’, to strike any Adonis-like poses. If I had any aspirations, I admit, they were to become Batman, to be a ninja; a completely capable physical specimen of breathtaking athletic and sexual prowess. I have never cared about aesthetics, but about functionality. I am happy to say that I am still functional. Probably more so than ever. Though i am yet to comfortably class myself ‘a ninja.’ Yet.
Recently, probably for the first time in my life, I have even felt something akin to being ‘beautiful’. It has not come from myself, but from the diligent and pure affections created within my current relationship. I am seen through eyes which cast a far better image of myself than i’ve ever known or been shown. It is almost an affront to have someone see you in such a light when you have so long shunned your body, when you have waged war against it for so long. It almost provokes anger for someone to give such attention to something you’ve hated your entire adult life, as if you were hearing kind words about a sworn enemy. Perhaps I’m growing up, now that I am finally starting to believe it. Perhaps I can now trust the eyes of others who love me instead of my own, outdated thoughts.
At 41, I think it’s not too late.