One Vogue writer reflects on coming to terms with his body for our Love Stories series.
Coming to terms with proof of human frailty, and the scars left behind.What good is it to be the lime burner ’ s daughter left with no trace as if not spoken to in the act of love as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar. —Michael Ondaatje (from “The Cinnamon Peeler”) I hate my body. I’ve hated it since I knew I had one. Not the way you do. Your body is your body—mine is the work of a collective; it’s not even mine to hate. Nearly a dozen heart surgeries, many before I was 10, have left my torso piecemeal. There’s no pattern to the scars, no beauty in their arrangement. They’re just there, some faded, others fresh, reminding me that I’ll never look good, that I’ll never be whole, that the clock is ticking. A stitch in time. Ha. I can’t count them for you. It would be like asking a boyfriend to reveal his “number,” in that it becomes less a matter of counting than deciding what, exactly, counts. There are the easy ones—like the garter making his way from my sternum up to the crags of my back. There’s the pacemakers, simple pinkish rips sealed by lasers, but a few of these are layered; do you charge more for a duplex? There’s two starbursts, nearly symmetrical, where Reagan-era tubes transfused the life force—and then some wee ones, colonies of 3 or four stitches; regrets, too few to mention. A pouch of tissue rests next to my starboard abdominals, protruding like a tangerine in a tote bag. Not sure if that’s worth one, or ten, or none. The point is that if scars are pets, I own a menagerie. And I hate every one of them. I come from a family where no one would be shamed for crying but whining was not permissible. If you didn't like something, you changed it. And I tried. As a teenager, I hit the gym. If my body drew stares, perhaps it could impress as the same time. Forget beauty: be the beast. I bench pressed the city’s weight; I have callouses on my hands to this day from an iron chin-up bar. “You’re going to ruin your body,” my mother warned. She wasn’t wrong. My chest and neck got too big. And I was still growing— awkwardly, I might add. I looked like a poorly cast X-Man (my mutant power was bong-rips, but that’s another love story for another time). It wasn’t until after college that this nonsense stopped. The gym, not the self-loathing. I wanted to be a piece of leather, not a stump—or it could be I’m just a slave to fashion; the Hedi Slimane boy was in—so I took up boxing and yoga. It might be a case of growing up (and out), but I began to worry more about my paunch than my gerrymandered chest. It’s not that I’m fat, though I kind of am. And it’s not that I’m short, though I’m that too. Growing older we grow boring, and my mind has had to make room for more mundane insecurities. It’s also a matter of appreciation. The demon cartographers who mapped my chest were, in fact, saints; I am beyond lucky and I owe them everything. I’ve come to love what the incisions, and their impetus, made of my mind. The body is undeniable, but it’s framed through my perspective, something for which I have a growing affection. (Let’s not go nuts here: Yeah, it’s love, but it’s the kind of love you have for an old couch: stains everywhere, but great for napping.) My difference is what pushed me toward this keyboard, and this life, which I’m rather fond of. It’s a hater’s love. And I wouldn’t trade it. Read more: Vogue Magazine
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