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Shannon Barber

Of a Body


I’m looking at my body from mid-hip up. I’m bent slightly, face dripping into the sink

and I see all of those things I am supposed to be fighting against and reclaiming from

aging and nature.


Pale streaks of stretch marks, dark marks where my sensitive skin has fought my bras,

black soft fluffy hair in my armpit, fat.


I see it all from one of those odd angles we rarely look at ourselves from. I take my shirt

off and pose with one hip jutting to my left, my arms up like a Grecian statue. I watch my

torso bend, the places where I fold and curve.


I am well aware that I am supposed to loathe the woman in that mirror. I am supposed to

be ashamed of my big thighs, and my belly and jiggly ass. My cellulite is supposed to be

a place of great bloody battle and lots of money spent on creams and treatments.


I know.


Many people have told me that because of this body I will die in the next five minutes.

Some keep it simple and tell me how quickly and terribly I will die from The Obesity.

They tell me I will die of diseases I don’t have. They tell me I deserve everything and

nothing, they tell me they hope I get raped or to just die.


My body is often the symbol for greed and all evil human personality problems. My body

is the picture of sloth and out of control eating; my body has been blamed for Global Warming

and my fellow Americans have declared outright war on this body.


This body is castigated as both whore and virgin. I am a slut because clearly I have no

standards and nobody wants to screw me yet I am doing everybody. I am simultaneously

loathed and desired, more so because my body is not a White body.


This is the world I live in.


And while I look at my naked body and I feel the round smooth scar on my knee, I touch

the small knots of scar tissue near my armpits from my breast reduction. I look

at my dry hands, my fancy painted nails, my huge nappy hair. I’m looking and rather than

the burning hate and shame I am supposed to feel, I feel like my body is home.


This body that changes when I don’t want it to and without my permission, it just does

what it wants to. This body that cannot fill out the butt of a size 16 pair of pants and tits

that destroy any garment not man enough to handle their mass. I am still bitter about not

having a rounder rear end but that is a whole other issue.


I am not special. I am not some super fat powered self-esteem machine. I am bemused

and occasionally dismayed and accepting of this jiggling, big titted, brown body that I

perambulate around the world in. Sometimes I am angry at my body, when my knees

swell for no reason, when my period is so heavy every time I sneeze I picture action

movie level bloody explosions in my pants, when I can’t reach things on the top shelf in

the store. When I have to vomit or get hives.


My body is full of flaws and failures. The days when my head hurts so bad I want to head butt

walls, or when my body decides that no sleep is the best way to be and I want to die. When I

can’t poop and it makes me want to cry.


Those things make me angry, they upset me and I fret over them endlessly. Then there

are those moments in the mirror, seeing my body moving and round and graceful in semi

stillness or beautiful gyrations when I’m trying to twerk. There is grace to my body when

I let it do as it will do.


Those moments I cherish; the view of my belly and hairy armpits makes me forget the

flaws and failures inside my body. I stop dissociating and putting the words from beauty

magazines onto my body.


In those small private moments, I am a vision of a body that I love. I am home.

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