Body? What Body?


I am a brain searching for a body. Disembodied. Unembodied.

I am antibodied. Starting at puberty, I developed antibodies to the physical manifestation of a self. Before puberty hit (and it hit like a ton of bricks), I was vibrant and alive in my body.  I played outside every day, rode my bike, was the only girl on the boy’s softball team. My nickname was “Babe Roth.” Cool, no?

In a cruel twist of fate, I first got my period on the day the NY Mets clinched the Eastern Division in 1969. Those of you who are baseball geeks know that the Mets were a team that made losing an art form. We die-hard fans loved them anyway. We celebrated their creativity in losing. Then came ’69, and the Miracle Mets. On what was otherwise a day of joy and celebration, I began bleeding. My body bled out. My brain remained intact. I gave up sports, gave up my bike, gave up all things physical. Beginning on this joyous day for NY sports fans, of which I was (am) one. Ironic, no?

At precisely the time when my physical self was developing into a sexual being, I became a No Body.

No BodyDeterminedly asexual. Anti-sexual. As my friends were blossoming into adulthood, I was heading in the opposite direction. My only blossoming was in weight. In one year, I went from fit to fat. From athletic to apathetic.  From buff to bulging. One year. Alarming, no?

I was a giant brain housed in a dissociated body. I wanted nothing to do with my physical self. Intellect replaced sports as my escape of choice. Photography was another refuge. I had a darkroom in my parents’ house, into which I escaped nightly, fleeing my father’s inevitable drunken tirades. He never made his way down to the basement to continue flinging his invective my way. Probably couldn’t have navigated the stairs. Pathetic, no?

My life’s focus became escape through eating. Comfort through comfort food. I had stashes of Oreos, potato chips, and candy in my bedroom, my self-soothing tools after each nightly emotional assault by my father: about how ugly I was, how despicable I was, how stupid I was.

SublimationSublimationSublimationSublimationSublimationSublimationSublimationSublimationOpen mouth, insert Hershey’s Kiss. No real kisses for this girl. Sad, no?

Ugly, despicable, stupid me. I believed it. Bought it—hook, line and sinker. Even as I battled my father, as I turned rage back toward him, he won the war. I became what he said. At the same time as feeling ugly scarred me, being fat helped me. Protected me. I didn’t want boys looking at me. I couldn’t handle anyone being attracted to me. How could I? The underlying causes of my weight gain, my asexuality, my escape into books and brains, became apparent to me only much later in my life. During my teenage years, I had no concrete memories of my father molesting me. That came years and years later. Without knowing why, I began to hate men. I was convinced that I didn’t ever want to be in a relationship (the idea of being with women hadn’t yet entered my overly intellectualized brain as a possibility). Frustrating, no?

And so, the story of Audrey the Ugly grew, as did my body, as did my aversion to all things physical. I looked at myself in the mirror and cringed. I hated taking showers because I had to be naked. Because I had to care for the part of me that I most abhorred. Because I had to touch myself, thus acknowledging that I was more than a brain. Thankfully, I was largely spared the adolescent angst of most girls like me during junior high and high school, because I attended a school for gifted girls. It was the late 60’s and early 70’s, and we were too busy “liberating” the subways, smoking dope with the hippies in Washington Square Park, and tormenting our teachers to turn against each other in those vicious ways that girls seem to in coeducational settings. My high school years saved me, in many ways, from what would otherwise have no doubt been a miserable existence. Lucky, no?

And yet, and yet, and yet… I hated myself. Despised how ugly I was. How unattractive. How disappointing (to whom?). I was so invested in being bad, and ugly, and despicable, I had no time for anything else. I began sabotaging myself in every way imaginable. Punishing myself for being the horrible person I knew I was. All the while I maintained a veneer of happiness, “acting as if” I were normal. I knew I wasn’t. I knew I was damaged goods. I knew I didn’t deserve to live, to be happy. Pathetic, no?

I am ineffably grateful to my first lover (a woman) for shocking me out of this rut, at least for a while. She seduced me. I was clueless. She looked smolderingly at me on the night of this seduction, and I asked her, innocently, whether she was angry at me. The next thing I knew, she was kissing my neck, and I was a goner! At the ripe old age of 20, I blossomed into a physical, sexual being, cursing myself for all I had missed! In a matter of months, I moved out of my parents’ house, moved in with her, and began to live. I dropped out of college. I dropped 45 pounds (no diets, just lots of sex and no need for sublimation). Cause for celebration, no?

No. (OK, maybe yes, maybe a little.) I gained the weight back after we broke up. My heart and hopes dashed, I went back to my stashes of sugar and salt, sweet and savory foods replacing a sweet and savory life. Shut down again. And though I continued as a sexual being, I was disconnected from intimacy in my sexual relations, saving it for my friendships, which were deep and abiding in the ways that most people’s sexual relationships were. Backwards, no?

To this day, I continue my struggle with whether to acknowledge my body. With whether I even want a body. With whether I am able to care for a body. Even as I am in a deep and fulfilling physical and emotional relationship. Even as I have done so much intensely healing work. Even as I watch my daughter begin to blossom into puberty (and quake in terror…but that’s the subject of another blog entry). I still hate showers. I still hate being naked. I still hate looking at myself in the mirror. Stasis, no?

No. I feel a difference now. Every once in a while, I surprise myself by thinking I look good. Every once in a while, I find myself thinking I’m not so ugly. Every once in a while, I like what I see in the mirror. In fits and starts, I am starting to get fit. I am thinking about caring for myself not by stashes of food, but by stashes of self-love. By stashes of honoring myself more than just for my brains. By stashes of encouraging myself to be a model for my daughter…and for the child within me.

As I said before…cool, no?




About armsakimbobook

I'm a mother, a lawyer, a feminist, a writer, a potter, and an inveterate and unapologetic New Yorker. My book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, tells of my journey of healing over a number of years, learning to live a full life after I was molested by my father at a very young age. I live in Maynard, MA, with my wife and and our two moose-cats, Samson and Hercules. My daughter used to live with me part-time, but she's all grown up now and in her junior year of college, which I can't quite fathom, since she was born about five minutes ago...
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