Blind Them With Your Kindness

15 Sep

When I was a little girl, my Dad would wake me up by rubbing my belly. It is still my preferred method of being woke, but the collateral damage is I might call you Dad if you do that to me. Take that as you will.

For the longest time, my Pa was the only person in my life who touched my mid-section in a way that made it seem normal, like bellies were just a thing to be touched like shoulders or hands. Not long after I was old enough to wake myself up (and he was on the road all the time, anyway) my belly became  a shameful thing to hide and cover. It was too round, it stuck out too far, it snuck out over the waist of my jeans.

The summer I was 12, or maybe it was 13, I grew some inches and lost some pounds. My belly was white but much smaller. One day I got the confidence to wear a short shirt and jean shorts to the store with my Pa. I know that he wouldn’t have let me leave the house dressed inappropriately. I know that I was just a kid, even if I had boobs. But the cashier, at first, refused to sell my father his Milwaukee’s Best because I was, as she said, an unrelated minor who was scantily clad. She thought my Dad was a pervert and I was his mark. I was hot with shame as he convinced an older cashier to make the sale, which she did.

In college, I tended bar at a local classic rock tavern during the summer. I was lean from Adderall and a mostly vegan diet. I ran miles and miles through the bar each night. After my shift I would drive to the beach and smoke cigarettes. I wore long pants and long cardigans with cropped shirts. The only skin I showed was my mid-parts, hard won and pale. I made a lot of money that summer.

I married a man who hated me, and also hated my body. I made batch after batch of Rice Krispy treats out of spite, gaining weight at a physically painful, hateful pace. I discovered a small pink stretch mark on my stomach and started seeing a therapist immediately. I talked about my childhood and gained 40 more pounds.

I thought I would lose weight after we got divorced, like it was some psychic connection we had that was preventing me. What I discovered, instead, was that I didn’t feel a particular yen to lose weight anymore. I started to think that maybe, even though I looked different than I used to, that it wasn’t necessarily worse.

I am 32 now, like I keep telling you, and for the first time since  I was 6 years old there is a person in my life who loves my belly, who acknowledges it and touches it.

Actually, there are 2 people.

One is a sweet 6 year-old girl who takes no prisoners in tickle wars and is not afraid to go right for the gut. She sees no shame in my tummy or hers.

The other is a person so dear to me, a person who makes me feel like I hung the moon. I don’t know how long I will know this person, or in what capacity. But I am decidedly lucky to have this experience. It feels good to feel this good. It feels radical and flagrant and delicious.

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