The Body Complicated

I am my body and my body is me, no more distinguishable as two “parts” than water’s components can be perceived as hydrogen and oxygen by the tongue. This body that is me, that I inhabit fully, is at the center of a multitude of complicated relationships. There is the body I dwell in and the distorted image reflected back to me from others as if viewed in a fun house mirror. There is the body I know and there is the construct that has seemingly constant medical issues. There is the body I occupy and the shape the symptoms of my illness outline. There is even this body I inhabit and the form revealed to me by the hands of a lover.

The friend of my body finds the strangers of image, construct, shape and form to be alien. Yet still they tangle together in my mind hard to distinguish from one another.

Sometimes even my fingers forget who is friend and who is foreign. They may slide over the same skin, but they sense a radically different typography. One is the familiar smooth skin over muscle and bone that contains strength, determination, passion, and playfulness. Depending on the circumstances, my fingertips will encounter something else. Sometimes it’s scars, asymmetry, and flab that compose an ugly, damaged image. Sometimes they feel that which is underneath the skin and constantly going awry. Sometimes they sense all the aches and pains, stiffness and tenderness of a sick shape. And sometimes they even discover the swells and valleys, softness, warmth, and sensitivity of a sensual form. And though one is friend and the rest alien, I mistake one for the other more often than even I know.

While it is clear that the reflected image, medicalized construct, and sickened shape are unwelcome in my head, you would be surprised at how often I do not welcome the sensuous form. It acts as a reminder that no eyes are looking upon it with desire, and no hands enjoying its contours. There is no wanting, no intimacy, and no affection. When this stranger comes to me, the loneliness that wells up pushes tears from my eyes and sorrow deep down into my soul.

Unlike the reflection, construct, or shape, I would make friend of this stranger if only it wasn’t a painful reminder of that which I do not have. In the moments when I think maybe, just maybe I can call it friend, something acts as a reminder that it’s not possible. At best, we are acquaintances having extraordinary trouble becoming closer. At worst, the companion I long for hurts me in a way unable to be soothed.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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