A Letter to the Manager
See my interview about the event on She Does The City.
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in regards to the body I received. I only got this body 26 years ago, well within the warranty period, and I have a few complaints.
This body seems to be defective.
First of all, this body was advertised as being fair, and thin, and beautiful, and hairless… But, it’s fat, and dark, and decidedly not hairless. I know the fine print says that shapes, colours, and sizes may vary, but why couldn’t I get something closer to the Beyoncé model, or the Margot Robbie? I’d even settle for a basic influencer model – those bodies can wear a t-shirt and jeans, and be celebrated as fashion icons.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not inherently bad, just because it’s fat and brown, but it’s challenging to find clothes that fit it right, and makeup that shows up the way it’s advertised. It’s hard not to feel insecure, when people still end their compliments with “… for a brown girl”. It’s hard to walk into a store, and immediately know that they won’t have anything in your size.
People look at me differently because of the way that this body looks. Sometimes they yell things at me – like: “go back where you came from”, or “Thank you, come again!” and sometimes they confuse me for my Filipino coworker.
This body is too fat to be seen buying – let alone eating – junk food. But when I take this body to the gym, I am mocked. Or, if I’m not being mocked, all I can think about is whether I’ll be mocked. This is the kind of body where when it develops an eating disorder, it’s encouraged, and commended for taking steps to try and lose weight.
On top of this, you never see this body advertised or celebrated on TV or in magazines. When you do see the rare body like mine in the spotlight, a fat woman, especially a fat brown woman, feeling happy or confident in what she looks like – it’s considered brave. I live in a body that when I want to change it, diminish it, make it smaller, I am lauded, but when I want to love it as it is, I am brave.
This body can’t go up a flight of stairs without needing to catch its breath. This body can’t shop at designer labels. This body can’t comfortably sit in restaurant booths. This body can’t wear a bikini or shorts without someone – often a stranger – commenting on it.
This body costs a fortune in hair removal.
This body is fat. Not curvy, or supple, or whatever euphemism we are currently using on women who are barely above average size. It’s round, and it jiggles, and its striped with stretch marks. This is a body that disgusts people.
I am too aware of the space this body takes up. I’ll shrink myself when I’m sitting beside someone on the train, conscious about every breath, and every movement, holding myself stiffly and uncomfortably, even if I was the one who sat there first.
In a way, it’s a good thing. I’m very aware of my body – of my self – something not everyone can say. But it doesn’t feel like this is how it should be… I feel like this body is a mistake, an inconvenience, an apology to the world.
I’m sorry that this body is not what you were expecting. It’s not what I was expecting either!
My next concern is: this body is Sick.
Tired all the time, this body barely has enough energy to get me through a full day’s work. The maintenance itself is exhausting (and expensive), I have an advent calendar of medications, and a collection of heating pads, weighted blankets, tensor bandages. I take up 50% of my family’s medicine cabinet.
You should hear the noises this body makes. It’s a cacophony of creaks and groans, coming from my spine, my shoulders, my knees, my ankles, every time I stretch, every time I come down the stairs.
Fingers constantly swelling with the cold, with the heat, hands becoming claws.
Pain. Everywhere, and beyond imagining. From a dull ache, always present in my hips, my knees, my wrists, my ankles, evolving into a sharper pain. One that keeps me awake at night. One that makes my decisions for me. Will I put a hardcover in my bag, or a paperback? Will I take the stairs up one flight, or take the elevator? Will I be able to keep my hands on the steering wheel, or will I ask a friend for a ride. Pain governs my decisions, big and small.
I can’t help but feel like this all a punishment. Did I do this to my body myself?
Was I too full of spite or anger or hatred? Was it my petty thoughts, or my internal grumblings that made this body turn against me? My dark feelings simmering, bubbling up, through my body, into my joints, manifesting into pain and ugliness. Is this the Law of Attraction?
There is so much this body can’t do.
This body can’t climb Mount Everest… I mean, I don’t want to climb Mount Everest, but it would be nice to know that I could.
This body can’t be a gymnast. It just doesn’t move that way.
This body can’t run a marathon. You know, on second thought, I don’t really need that feature.
This body can’t even protect itself properly. It has an autoimmune disease, it’s literally attacking itself.
I worry that this body can’t have children. I don’t know for sure if I want children. But it wasn’t until somewhere between my second ultrasound, and my MRI, that I knew I at least wanted the option.
These are things that a lot of bodies can’t do, and I get that. But, honestly, this body has difficulty, even with the simplest things sometimes.
When it’s having a flare up, when it’s in pain, there are times that:
This body can’t stand for long periods of time. There are times it can’t open a jar. Or use a knife and fork. It can’t always carry all the groceries in one trip. It can’t fasten, or unfasten necklaces. It can’t hold a pencil or a pen. It can’t shampoo its own hair without needing to take a break to rest its arms. It can’t sit cross-legged. There are times it can’t even hold a hardcover open.
Maybe this letter isn’t so much for you, as it is for me. This is the body I was given — full of problems, and complaints, and insecurities, and imperfections.
But that’s not all this body can do.
This body can hold hands. It can comfort a loved one. It can hug a friend who’s having a bad day. It can kiss. It can do a secret handshake with my brother’s best friend. It can make a snow angel. It can organize a bookshelf. This body can DANCE! It can swipe right…. It can also swipe left. It can apply lipstick without looking in a mirror. It can sing in the shower. It can wiggle its toes in the sand.
This body has crossed bridges over Venice’s Grand Canal, and sat under the Roman sun, looking over the colosseum. This body has summited a Rocky Mountain, it has swam in the ocean, and dipped its toes in countless bodies of water. This body has seen me through school, and job interviews. It has played on the Rugby team, and scored on its own team’s Soccer net. This body was on student council, this body was prom queen. This body was published.
This body can love.
And maybe. Maybe I can love this body.
Maybe this letter isn’t so much for you, as it is for me.
Maybe this body is not a punishment, or a test. Maybe it’s not a cry for help, or an apology to the world around it.
Maybe this body is a body. It’s MY body, but just a body nonetheless.
This body isn’t what I thought it would be, but I think that’s for the best. This body is mine, and I’m learning to be at peace with that.
Thank you for your time,