Monday, 4 February 2013

Body of Evidence

Last September, 2013, Eden Riley (one of the all-time great bloggers) wrote a post about female body image and her dismay at discovering so many young girls and women were considering surgery to modify their bodies. You may want to check Eden’s post out at:

One comment on Eden’s post was from DaisyLolaDot that intrigued the hell out of me and left me wondering about how I felt about my own body. Well into my late 40s I imagined the kinds of cosmetic surgery I would get if I won the big Lotto prize. I have a space in my upper front teeth that I have always disliked and day-dreamed about closing that gap. One morning at the age of 12 years I woke to find a huge shelf on my chest that got in the way of EVERYTHING. I longed for a breast reduction that would make me look normal and stop boys (and later men) constantly wanting to touch them.  To make my appearance different I would I have gladly gone under the surgeon’s knife. I wanted to become a dainty, ethereal creature instead of the lumpy, peasant looking girl that I was. (It’s just as well because I'm sure K.D. Lang used me as her inspiration when she wrote that fabulous song about the Big Boned Gal. It would be a sad world without that song.)

I've been thinking about the issue of cosmetic surgery and body modification since the post from Eden and am stunned to discover that I now really, really love this old body of mine. On the surface, my body is in bad shape. It is morbidly obese, has crippling osteo arthritis and spondylitis, has needed a hysterectomy, appendectomy, gall bladder removal, numerous operations on deformed feet, fusion of the cervical spine, two hip replacements, carpal tunnel surgery, and has allergic reactions to substances too many to list. What has taken my breath away is the realisation that, in spite of these handicaps, my body has brought me so much joy.  

These feet emerged at birth as clubbed feet and endured endless pain of straightening physiotherapy, wearing ugly prosthetic footwear that caused such embarrassment and several operations during my childhood years. Yet these man-sized feet also took me dancing, hiking, potholing, rock climbing and bush trekking. They carried me thousands of miles to school and work and back. They helped me carry my babies, shopping bags full of groceries and even furniture when I moved from place to place. I find I have a great deal of affection for my feet, even when the bunions throb with pain, or when, because their joints are fused together, the slightest knock means the toes break, or the ankles protest another flare up of arthritis. My feet are marvellous because of their triumph over adversity AND, to me they just look beautiful.

My knees are now swollen, pitted with scars and the occasional spidery vein. Yet, I find I'm so proud of them!

These knees helped me get around before I could walk. They have crawled over many surfaces whilst chasing pets, babies, toys and other treasures. They got scraped when I fell off a bike my younger brother and I made from bits found at the dump. The scar (on the left in the picture) reminds me of how exhilarating it was to fly down the street on two wheels but no brakes. As I went arse-over-tip my knee caught on the open end of the steel handlebar and gouged out a huge piece of flesh. At age 8 I was so proud of that wound and it is a scar worth having!

These knees have helped me crawl through and up and down potholes, assisted me in clinging to sheer cliff faces in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. They have gripped lovers as passion took our bodies and minds to the heights of absolute enjoyment. They also gave me something to hang on to when I pushed my two children into the world.

Now, the patella in my right knee keeps going off the rails. At random moments it forgets where the rails are and dislocates. This usually results in me becoming a fully-fledged member of the “Ministry of Silly Walks” (The Monty Python team would be so proud). Alternatively, I just fall over. Yes, it bloody well hurts, but I get a great pay off from the looks on people’s faces when it happens in public. Priceless!
Yes, these knees are good knees. They have done, and continue to do a good job and I wouldn't swap ‘em for quids.

What to say about these oddly shaped hands?

These hands hold every memory of everyone and everything they touched and left a memory for everyone and everything that touched them. The exquisite, yet simple pleasure of walking down a street and having the man I love reach for and hold my hand is priceless. These hands have provided safety and comfort to my children and grand children plus all the other children who I have had the pleasure to know.

In my late teens and early twenties I was embarrassed by my big, man-sized hands. Yet I was grateful for the power they embodied. These hands have traversed many lovers’ bodies, bringing sweet rapture equally to those I loved and those I liked. They kept my safe when dangling from ropes halfway up sheer cliff faces and lifting fallen boulders to clear the way in deep potholes.
Having big hands was a bonus when handling my new born babies; they were sure, strong and, at the same time, gentle. These hands have cooked and cleaned, washed and ironed, knitted, sewn and crocheted. They have turned thousands of pages in books, written and typed thousands of words in journals, essays, letters, emails, a thesis and even blog posts. They have planted gardens and veggie patches, stroked and fed dogs, cats, rats, guinea pigs, mice, rabbits, chickens, ducks, budgies and, yes, even a pet goat.

Now, looking at my hands with their wrinkles, age spots and crooked fingers I am filled with wonder at what they have done and I rejoice.

I look at my large, wobbly body and wrinkly skin and feel delighted. All desire for cosmetic surgery has disappeared. I am now thankful for and love this old body. Every wrinkle, every scar, every age spot is testimony to a life lived. A life to be very grateful for and a life in which I have loved deeply and been deeply loved.

I think it’s time for us as a society to rejoice in our bodies as they age and celebrate bodily milestones. Every BODY is beautiful, including mine. 

Now I'm off to plan a party. I will be 68 this year and I think my body deserves a to celebrate. I hope yours does too.

PS: My 4 year old granddaughter told me that she loves me being fat because the hugs I give her are so soft and squishy and she could stay hugging me all day!


  1. You're about the first person I've run into who has this attitude. I feel the same way. So many parts of me are frankly odd-looking and they get odder every year, but I'm so grateful to all of them. I have the hands of a woman 25 years older but they've never let me down. And it's such a relief to not be on the make anymore.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. And bodies are just so darned interesting; the way they keep on changing according to need. Fascinating! Well, at least you and I think so and that's good enough for me.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, and yes! I sometimes forget this, but even knowing it some of the time is brilliant.

  3. Thank you, Elan, for taking the time to read and comment. That you did means more to me than you will ever know.

  4. I should read this every day until the way you feel rubs off on me! For most of my adult life, I've hated having my picture taken. I know I'm far from ugly but I don't feel good about myself. As I've gotten older I've learned to be grateful for my health and that my body can function. I know how easy it is to take for granted that we even have limbs. We really are lucky and we forget to rejoice in what we've been blessed with. Now that I've found your blog, I'll be back because I like your point of view! Plus I want to be around to wish you a happy 68th birthday later this year! :-)

    1. What a delightful comment and how lovely you are going to come back. I know exactly how you feel, I used to feel that way too but now we can look forward to celebrating our beautiful bodies, at least once a year. :-)

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