Someone once told me I should “have what I want”.
This particular person wasn’t healthy for me in many ways, but this one statement was one of those teaching moments – those moments when you realize people were put into your life to alleviate years of restriction and suffering with a few words. Especially since I was someone who restricted what I ate and what I desired for years.
Image Credit: John Paul Ryan
I think perhaps the biggest tragedy of living is that we restrict ourselves to any singular role. We are mothers, so we cannot be sexual. We are children, so we don’t have the right to voice our opinion to elders. We are male, so we cannot verbally express that we are hurt. We are female, so we must appear good on paper and desirable behind closed doors. We must keep that part of ourselves a secret. Hush hush now, our parents would disapprove.
The fact of the matter is, these are all made-up societal mores that may not happen to work for everyone. Do I think everyone should shirk all moral rules, run around naked and disrespect their elders? Not really. But I do believe, it is when we internalize others’ (societal or familial) messages as our own truth that we run into trouble. When I was 15 and read InStyle religiously, I started to believe that being 113 lbs and 5’11” was something I needed to be. Because that’s what one of their models was. This turned into other, maladaptive beliefs that would thwart my attempts to be my own person. For example,
Good girls don’t take up literal or figurative space.
Good girls don’t upset other people.
Good girls don’t complain. Good girls know everything’s fine.
Good girls don’t want. They sacrifice for others. They martyr.
Good girls don’t have edges or make waves. Good girls do what the family does.
Good girls don’t talk about sex – that’s a man’s territory. Even that’s a bit taboo.
Can you imagine having the emotions that I have and keeping all of those appetites in for years? Knowing that an extra piece of my mother’s lemonade cake would make me too big, so I denied myself it, or I ate it and beat myself up for weeks. Knowing that expressing a want, a desire for another human being would be laughed at, so I stifled it, and starved myself accordingly. You can’t have what you want, Amanda, you can’t be who you are. Put it away. Box it up. Shelve it.
Fuck being good. I don’t want to be good anymore. I want to be me.
This is an old story. This has happened a million times with a million people who were restricted somehow by society’s beliefs. My story is not unique.
I just want to know when we will stop looking at bodies through filters. Through taboo filters and image-obsessed filters and just see flesh for flesh and muscles for muscles and sex as part of our biology and necessary. That sex and food can be one thing to one person and something else to the next. That there’s nothing “bad” or “good” about it – unless you want it to be with your partner.
So what do I want?
I want to have security. I want to have consistency and routine because I know, at the end of the day, it serves me well. But I also want to know it’s ok to be proud of my body, the one I’ve fought so hard to love. I want to know it’s ok to be desirable. And that it doesn’t mean I’m bad or I’ll do something “bad”. That it doesn’t mean I’m a bad wife or a bad mother. And I want lots and lots of dessert to follow the rainbow of raw vegetables and fruit I eat each day. Icebox cake, to be exact. I want to exercise until I can’t breathe and I want to sleep soundly. I want to be a nurturing mother and a no-bullshit businesswoman. I need both. I need both in all aspects. Don’t we all? I find it unbelievable that we all play one singular role within the complexities of our personal traits and emotions. When we do that, we inhibit the beautiful complexity of our souls, capable of so much, so many colors.
When I voiced guilt to my therapist about purchasing my pricey wedding dress, echoing years of restraint to her, she smiled and said, “Amanda. It’s ok to have what you want.”
A beautiful luxury in a developed society like ours.
So this is me. I don’t like being domestic, I like burlesque shows, I like using my body and feeling alive everyday, I like painting princesses with my daughter, and I like expressing myself.
It may not fit a role, but it’s good for me.
(Thanks to JPR)