Pretty

This is part of a series of posts on body image

This is, by far, one of my favorite thoughts on body image I’ve found on the internet over the past few years. It is interesting to hear what some people think about her words. More than once I’ve heard people say: wow, she sure is mad! Well yeah, I think that it is an angry poem but more than anything else there seems to be a ‘never again’ and ‘not my daughter’ kind of feel to it. And I like that very much.

However, what I really like the most is that it makes you think very seriously about the word ‘pretty’.

Recently I had my gall bladder removed. It was the first time I’d been under general anesthesia. First surgery ever (apart from wisdom teeth) and I was stunned at how difficult even routine surgery can be. Anxiety before hand, financial issues to sort through, digestive changes and foods that must be limited or eliminated altogether, wound care and scaring are the tip of the iceberg. Anesthesia wrecks havoc on your ability to feel like yourself for a long time after wounds begin to close up.

Truth is, your body is violated in surgery, even if it is only by the instruments, and it takes a while to stabilize again and move beyond that trauma.

After the surgery was over, after I came home and rested, after my aunts who had graciously come to take care of me had gone home, I stood in front of the full length mirror in my guest bedroom looking at the gigantic bandages.

Now, this is probably one of the world’s most amazing mirrors because somehow or another it is propped up against the wall in just such a way as to reflect the person gazing into it as ever so slightly slimmer than they actually are.  Quite a good deal slimmer. I would love to have it in my bedroom but I dare not touch it, lest it lose its magic! But standing there looking at my bandaged, weakened, exhausted body I was not as impressed with its usual transformative, Mirror of  Erised abilities.

Instead I was impressed with my very own human body!

Wow, I thought, someone cut into this body in four places, stuck a camera and other instruments inside and plucked out an organ! And yet, here I stand!

Here I stand.

As the days of healing time passed, the bandages came off to reveal a gigantic purple bruise as big and round as a doorknob on my belly and three other puckery pink and purple gashes. They were hideous, of course, but strangely beautiful, too. It seemed like they changed colors and shapes every day as my amazing, scarred, overweight, out of shape, beautiful human body healed itself. My Body Healed Itself! And I will never, ever see it the same again.

We often spend so much time worrying about pretty that we miss what is beautiful. It is like the word ‘nice’. Be nice. That’s such a trite thing. A bit like pretty. Vapid vapor at best. Mostly I think what we want people to be is kind. Now that’s a word with some depth. Like beautiful. Nice and pretty are what we want to be so that we can be liked by others. Kind is what we do for others and beautiful is about who we are.

The surgery wounds are, for the most part, healed. The remarkable bruise has long since faded and new skin seals what once opened to release one of my damaged organs. There are scars in every one of those places…. and scars are not pretty. But wow, they sure are beautiful!

This is the second post in a series on body image. If you have a story or wish to write an essay about your own experience with body image to post on this blog, please contact me. I would love to read it!

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One thought on “Pretty

  1. Rosemary–I am loving this series and I so appreciate your insights. I need to find it, but I will send you a link to a blog post a mom wrote about how she wants to start telling her daughters that she is beautiful–not just that they are beautiful, but that she is. I found it very moving.
    I think you are absolutely right that “beautiful” and “kind” are the qualities we want–and that I want to teach my girls–not “pretty” and “nice”.
    Thank you for this–and for making me think.
    ~Wesley

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