I must have been 11 years old when I found out the terrible truth in a moment of unforgettable despair: my body is not perfect. The scenario was as desolated as the discovery: I was sitting on the toilet, observing my legs. The reason I was examining my legs under my harsh criticism microscope was that I thought I´d seen a glimpse of a vein, purple, thin & dramatic, popping out from a thigh.
Me + my leg + purple, visible (although tiny) vein showing its ugly face = pre-teenage girl in distress.
Until that moment, I was under the impression I was untouched by nature (go figure!) – like a wax doll or the plastic princess in the music box – always shinning, plain, predictably neat and, yes, perfect. Or, at least, what I considered perfect.
I cried my eyes out, alone, locked in the bathroom, staring at that little – HUGE – vein saying hi to me, a killer, a devil that reminded me of the obvious: perfection doesn´t exist and, what is probably worse, my body is in constant change.
Was it the lack of control that scared me? Decadence? Ageing? I was about to enter my teenage years: so young and fresh (although I DO feel fresher and younger at the present moment)! I couldn´t possibly feel the sting of old age. Could I?
After that shocking “purple vein” revelation, my body kept growing, changing and freaking me out while at it.
I went through a short, almost invisible – yet decisive – period of anorexia during which I counted bread crumbs, feeling like a zombie, half alive and half dead. Although I´d lost my period, my curves, my energy and my smile during that period, my dad often complimented me on the “good shape” I was in. In fact, it wasn´t only my father who complimented me – the whole world seemed to think I was perfect – finally.
Thankfully, I got out of that anorexy swamp with the same fluidity as I´d got in. Still my body continued to grow and change.
Most people I know are disconnected from their bodies. They use it like a dog to whom they order actions: sit,run, play dead, good boy. Nothing more than that.The thing is I´m a professional dancer. That means, among other things, I cannot afford to be disconnected from my body. I wouldn´t want to but I couldn´t, even if I wanted to.
I make a living out of this connection; I teach people about this connection; I dance, choreograph and write out of this connection. Aside from that, I see my body as what it actually is: a blessed life partner. I admire – and feel thankful for – its endurance, self-healing ability, wisdom, generosity, creativity, aliveness, beauty, energy, strength and and and (I DO appreciate my body – sue me for that!). Its ability to provide pleasure and knowledge never ceases to astonish me; its power – visible and invisible – and its way of revealing Divinity are too precious for words.
As time passes, I see how this miraculous machine adapts to life, making the best of it and, more often than not, protecting me from it. When there are threats and traps around me, my stomach expands to frighten off enemies. When I´m in love with a particular man, my hips get rounder and wider, inviting him into my Secret (Sacred) Garden. When I am stressed, my whole body becomes bloated, keeping fat reservations for hard times that may lie ahead. It can be disturbing but only if we look at it that way. I think it´s fabulous.
Just one year ago, me and my family gathered for one of our mythical reunions, in Portugal. It´s a Portuguese family we´re talking about: food, wine, laughter; more food, more wine, more laughter on repeat mode. One of my uncles observed me, while holding a glass of red wine and frowning his wrinkled forehead. Then he shot at me:
– Have you done something to your face?
-Something? Like what?
–Something…(he meant plastic surgery)
-Ah! You did something to your face. You look different.
No one could convince him otherwise. As far as he knew, and he KNEW it, I had been under the surgeon´s knife in order to alter my face for whatever reason he imagined.
I also had an ex-boyfriend asking me exactly the same thing:
-What did you do to your face? What have you done to your breasts?
I´ve heard comments, some kind and some extremely unkind, of people who don´t know me but grant themselves the right to criticize my body and decide that I´ve done this and that operation. Being under the public eye, as a dancer, exposes me to this kind of bullshit. Dealing with it has become a hobby – one that often makes me laugh. My answer to people´s criticism has been one and the same: ok. Whatever you say. Next!
As long as I´m healthy, flexible, strong and inspired; as long as I do my job with excellence; as long as I´m a dancer, not a model, I´m perfect(ly) fine. More than fine.
Time´s short for everything I want to do in my life. I´m busy turning my dreams into reality and ENERGY is required to move as fast as I do. When do I have the time – or the patience – to obsess about physical perfection? Why would I care with criticizing my body or anyone else´s body, for that matter? Who has the time for it? Get a grip, folks!
For the record: I´ve never done a single thing to my body – except for massages and love making which are the BEST treatments you can offer yourself – but I know I´ve been through enormous changes, physical and otherwise. I celebrate those changes, even if they require adaptations from my side. Although I haven´t chosen it, I´m not opposed to other people´s plastic surgeries (everyone is free to build or destroy his/her own body; who I am to say “don´t do it” to a stranger?!).
For some reason I cannot fully explain, my hips got wider and rounder (as well as my derrière which was always extremely generous); my breasts got bigger; my legs became stronger and longer; my hair darkened; my cheek and eye bones went up, my eyes widened and turned even brighter than they were. These are just examples.
I don´t expect changes to stop here. As a professional dancer, it´s my obligation to keep fit – body, mind, heart and soul: that´s how I assure my work´s quality. But “fit” is not necessarily skinny. Fit is HEALTHY, flexible, strong, energized, capable of doing everything I need to do as a dancer.
Let´s add the obvious: we all know we´ll die, some day. And we know our bodies change until death arrives, if we´re lucky enough to die at old age. The thing is we, human beings, keep fighting an enemy we simply cannot beat. It´s like bumping with your head against an iron wall, knowing it will be broken every single time. Why do we keep struggling with something that beat us to the punch?
Aside from an annoying self-loving person, I´m also an even more annoying terrible loser. I mean: I hate losing. No, I don´t hate because we cannot hate something we don´t experience. Let me put it correctly: I don´t accept losing. Period. Therefore, the equation is quite simple: if I know I cannot beat ageing and death, I accept them as my partners. I join the Winner´s Club. There´s no point on entering a fight I know, from the beginning, I´m gonna lose. Why would I do that?
When I see people – mostly women – self-hating, bashing their bodies and speaking terrible things about themselves just because they don´t look like society demands (and society keeps demanding different things – yey!), I cry with them. That pre-teenage girl who sat on the toilet, alone, crying over a purple vein on her thigh, cringes her teeth. That teenager who suffered anorexia and lost her lust for life (lost + lust – intentionally put together) wakes up, as if in the middle of a nightmare.
I cannot afford to hate my body, no matter how many changes it goes through. I´m a creative person who does things and goes to places; I´m alive, you see? ALIVE requires love, energy, good food and an even better mind. I´m indeed alive. And so are YOU.
P.S: Drop the self-hate bullshit, will you? If a man tells you to lose weight or have a plastic operation, tell him to get a penis enlargement and a brain implant. If a woman tells you the same, dance with her. Just tell her to shut the f… up, to get up and dance. Everything else is a waste of time and, make no mistake, LIFE. Precious, rare and short life.