Sharmila was 21 when she realized her body had become a stranger.
“I promise I will not let you down again.”
Do you remember the day I accidentally noticed those stretch marks on you?I was trying on a pair of jeans in a trial room of a shopping mall; the walls were covered with huge, full-length mirrors. Just as I was reaching down to pull up the jeans, my eyes darted over my behind reflected in the mirror, and I spotted the marks—not one, not two, but numerous thin lines beginning just under my hips, spreading around my buttocks like roots of an old tree, and slowly vanishing at the back of my thighs.
I stood still, staring at the stretch marks for a few minutes. This sudden confrontation with you jolted and confused me.I wondered how long these marks had been there. Did they appear after I first started my period? If so, how was I only seeing them now for the first time in my life, at 21 years of age?
Dear Body, that experience with you shook me in a strange way. I felt waves of shame and disbelief course through me. Although you had lived with me all my life, I had never paid close attention to you. I realized then that I did not have the slightest idea of who you were.
You see, nobody taught me to pay you any attention. You have always been here with me, but I never looked you in the eye or started a conversation with you. At best, I treated you like a worn out souvenir from an old friend—something that you can’t get yourself to throw out but don’t want to keep either.
I grew up hearing others jab you with insults: “Look at your eyes, how sunken!” “Your arms are so big!” “You seem shorter every time I see you.” Somewhere along the way, I learned that ignoring you was the proper thing to do, and harassing you was even better.
I had made you my enemy even before I had a chance to greet you properly.
When we finally met inside that dressing room, it was just the two of us, and I saw a little of you. At that moment, I wanted to see more of you and get to know you. You were my best friend, after all. How could I have ever thought otherwise?
I am learning now, my dear Body, to observe and appreciate all your minute details—the little wrinkles on your forehead, a patch of light skin over your eyebrows, your eyes set deep, the scattered little dots on your cheeks, the thin scar on your palm, a mole on the inside of your left arm, and the subtle color of the veins in your wrists.
I am starting to know all parts of you, and I am learning to love and groom you in the way you deserve. Through you, I am also discovering how to experience the sacredness and divinity you possess. I am sorry, dear Body, that I didn’t start this sooner.
If I have a daughter one day, I will put a full-length mirror in her room. I’ll lead her by her little fingers and let her see herself in the mirror. I’ll proudly proclaim, “Look at yourself; you are nothing but divine,” and tell her, “Sweetheart, run your fingers over the smoothness of your skin. Get to know all its cracks and crevices, and love it all you can!”
After all, what could be more empowering than knowing your own body and immersing yourself in its love?
Dear Body, I promise I will not let you down again. I will give you all the care and affection that you yearned for all those years. I will make you proud you chose me.
This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share,and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.