On Pictures and Memory and Bodies
|BYU graduation, with niece.|
|Tennyson Downs, 2003.|
This happens to you, right? That you get a picture developed (remember developing pictures?!) and you don't look at the lovely place you were, or think about the people you were with, because you're focused 100% on your thighs or your hair or your eyebrows or your [insert-insecurity-here]. And when the picture resurfaces years later, you stare and stare at it, remembering feeling bad, but not being able to re-conjure why on earth you felt that way. I can't tell you how many rolls of film I've looked through, my eyes zeroing in on every complaint I have about me, as if I took the film for evidence, to confirm or deny my worth, rather than for memory's sake. My sisters and I used to say that every bad picture destroyed two weeks of self esteem. We'd flip through a stack of pictures, tallying them up, saying, "Two weeks, four weeks, six weeks." We'd estimate we might begin to recover from looking at that stack sometime in June.
But to say that I wanted to step in these pictures and tell my younger self to relax is an understatement. Lately I'm so tired of body image issues that I wish I could shake that younger self and scream at her to stop thinking about her thighs. Because here's the thing I've realized recently: thinking about my thighs is so profoundly boring. I wrote another post about this, and then decided to turn it into an essay, but I still want to say this. I want to shout it. The problem with obsessing over our bodies and hating them, hating them in the mirror and in pictures, thinking about them in the past and fretting over them in the present, and letting our sadness about them make us shy and frightened and live quieter than we mean to, the problem is that it's the most boring thing in the world. I mean, look at me in these pictures. I'm not saying I'm a supermodel. I am chubby and a little awkward and I have been my entire life, frankly. But I was in some of the most beautiful places in the world, in my world: the Provo River, graduating, Chicago, Tennyson Downs. And in every single one of them, I was either on a diet, or flagellating myself into trying my next one. When I looked at these pictures, I was devastated that I wasn't smaller and prettier. Now this breaks my heart.
|The Lake District|
And I don't want to do it anymore. I'm angry I've spent so much of my time thinking about this, about the imperfections of my body, and I don't want to spend another second thinking about them. I feel like plastering these pictures all over my house. Not in vanity, not so I can gaze at my mug all day. But so I can remember. I want to remember. I want to tell myself, you were lovely, lovely, lovely. You must still be. Not just in retrospect, not just after more years have made my fresh face seem fresher. But now, now now now, in the middle of new beautiful places, I'm already lovely.