Every once in a while I see a movie or read a passage that reminds me how deeply I’ve internalized Western society’s neuroses with respect to the human body. For the most part, our media is terribly squeamish about bodies, particularly ones that aren’t perfect. It’s okay to parade around semi-nude, as long as you’re made of some kind of high-gloss synthetic pseudo-skin. This message is repeated abundantly on television, in magazines and movies.
Then there are movies like Frida. Ignoring for a moment the casting of the beauteous Salma Hayek in the lead role, this is a movie that pays tribute to a woman who was broken, crippled, scarred, and identified by her excessive facial hair – yet managed to go down in history as a passionate and erotic seductress of both men and women.
I am fascinated by people who can take such command of their physicality, whatever it may be, and transcend it in a way that makes them irresistible to nearly everyone. People who live in their skin, rather than hiding inside it. I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be one of those people.
Along with practically every other woman I know, I grew up bombarded with imagery of perfect skinny supermodels, and learned to feel terribly inferior in comparison. We were also bombarded with counter-messages telling us to love ourselves just as we were, and we tried to do so, in the same desperately false way that people try to love fat-free artificially-sweetened frozen yogurt more than triple fudge sundaes.
But as I’ve evolved, I really have come to see how sad and misguided it is that our culture can only seem to love perfect bodies. I once had a boyfriend tell me that he found cellulite kind of sexy. At the time, I was bewildered by the idea, but I can completely relate to it now. Flaws are sexy. Flesh is sexy. Bumps and dimples and moles and creases are sexy, because they’re real. They’re proof of a living, breathing, touchable person.
This is a poem I wrote a long time ago on this very subject, back when I still didn’t feel completely pretentious about writing poetry; maybe Frida will inspire me to give it another go.
It’s funny how
we start by putting clothes on
Dress-up reverie, you tightening my laces
This seems backwards, you say
Nothing wrong with doing things in reverse, I say
lifting my hair
And this is a dream, because I’m flawless
and I’m brave, and you
are responding just how I would want you to
catching your breath on the curves of my back
Why can’t I dream
that your fingers find the flaws
and touch me anyway?
If I could be real to you
we’d kiss the lines
around our eyes, beside our lips
and remind each other
how many ways there are to be beautiful