It is as though we are only vaguely aware of the whole discourse of gender that swirls around us as children, but that catalyzes with puberty. With my period, I was called on to negotiate that identity. By gaining weight I was having none of it.
It happened yet again. A lovely, bright, charismatic young woman came to see me the other day for counselling about her relationship to food and her body. For someone’s first session I always get her story, of course. This woman started off by recounting that her issues with her weight began at age 12. I made a note of this as a point I wanted to return to. Engrossed, she carried on. When her narrative reached its natural conclusion, I began my active engagement. My first question: “I’m curious. How old were you when you got your first period?” “Twelve,” she answered. I was not surprised.
I was 13 when I got my period. It was January of Grade 8. I had started Grade 8 at 98 pounds. By the time I Grade 8 had ended, I was 136 pounds. Quite a change. Wait, wait! I know what you are thinking. With puberty, you gain weight. That is absolutely true. Curves, padding, breasts. All good for pregnancy. But for me it was something more than that. For most of the women who come to see me it is something more than that too. And we hate ourselves for it. Which begs the question: What is so wrong with a woman’s body?
There will always be voices that promise you greatness and glory:
They call out from the worldly marketplace;
They call out from the spiritual marketplace;
They call out from the fill-your-holes marketplace;
They call out from the bigger-better-more marketplace.
Do not buy their false promises, or purchase their ephemeral wares;
What fulfills for a moment is not worth the price of your soul.
There are heights that will lift you, but not when you try to ascend them;
There are powers that will fill you, but not when you make them your own.
There are treasures, and then there are imitations of treasures.
If you have lost your true gold, at least turn away from the glitter.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
the universe took its time on you
crafted you precisely
so that you could offer the world
something distinct from everyone else
so when you doubt
how you were created
you doubt an energy greater than both of us
Tonight, Pluto, with the crescent moon as my witness,
I welcome you as my lover.
If you have come to break down my door,
See, I have opened it,
And wait for you at its threshold.
And if you have come to tear off my clothes,
I have flung them aside already,
And stand naked, shivering gladly.
If you have come to hurl me into the abyss,
Watch now, as I release all false supports, one by one,
And fall toward you in ecstasy.
Hear this, Pluto, lord of transformative fire:
What you have come to take from me, I offer you.
I am a lover without a lover. I am lovely and lonely, and belong deeply to myself. — Warsan Shire