HATE HIDDEN BY A SUMMER SWEATER
By: Lauren Anderson
So I was hanging out with a good friend the other day, and I complimented her on the pretty summer sweater she was wearing.
“I like this coral summer sweater. It looks great on you.”
For those of you that don’t know what a summer sweater is– think regular sweater, but lighter weight with more space between the weaving. Basically, a sweater that doesn’t do any of the things a regular sweater is made to do, because it has too many holes.
And yet, they are still a thing. Like a dumb, surprisingly common bit of “ladies” fashion.
Have I lost you yet? That’s fair. Let’s move on shall we?
The point is, I liked her shirt. The color was poppin’ and she was wearing it well. In my humble opinion, she always knows how to turn it out! But what happened next will shock and amaze you.
“Well, thank you.” She said. Ah, how nice! I love it when people can accept a compliment graciously.
But that’s not the shocking or the amazing part. She continued.
“I’ve been wearing a lot of these sweater shrugs lately… because they’re the perfect layering piece.”
I nod, and absently add cream to my coffee. Here I’m thinking we’re grabbing some joe, about to go on a walk, having a typical talk about the mundane things that make up a day/week/year/life… and then she hits me with the one-two punch.
“Because I HATE MY ARMS.”
I look up from pouring my cream. She said it with such stank in her voice, her arms sounded like a mortal enemy. (‘Ello, my name is Inigo Montoya, I hate my arms. Prepare to die.)
I don’t say a friggin word. I just shoot her a look. She KNOWS what I’m thinking. She knows what is literally teetering on the tip of my tongue.
But before I get a chance to recite my now VERY FAMILIAR doctrine, she cuts me off.
“And I know what you’re going to say– and you don’t need to say it. I know I shouldn’t hate my arms. But I do. I just do. I just don’t like the way they look. I look down at them and and I just hate them.”
I’m quiet. I open my mouth to speak, but she doesn’t let me get a word in before she continues.
“And I know what you’re thinking. I should love my body, and I do! I do love my body, and that includes my arms. And I want to live in gratitude, and be grateful for all these arms can do. And I am! I love how they hug my children, help me get my work done, make my art, express myself, and care for others.”
I am listening. Watching this all unfold.
“I love how strong they are, and that they are usually pretty tan. And the skin is smooth.”
I’m still listening. A slow smile starts to spread across my face.
“I love how my upper arms kind of remind me of my dad, and the inside of my arm by my elbow is so soft. Just like my mom’s skin was. She used to take her long nails and scratch right there.”
As she’s talking she starts absently running her hands up and down her arms. It’s not creepy, it’s loving. She is lovingly touching her arms. And I don’t even think she knows she’s doing it.
“And I guess in the scheme of things, my arms could be a lot worse. I mean, no one in the world would look at these arms and be like, “GROSS”. I just wish they were more toned. Or slimmer. But then again, it’s not like they look disproportionate to my body. They are perfectly fine arms. No, they’re better than fine. These are damn good arms.”
I am fully smiling here. And in the twist that you all saw coming she said–
“I guess I like my arms just fine. I may even love them…”
* * *
Now let’s stop right here.
I am not shocked or amazed that in the talking through of what her arms can do, and finding the good in this part of her body, my friend went from hate to love in a matter of moments.
That’s the beauty of this intentional work right? That’s the beauty of practicing gratitude when you can I guess…
I know from firsthand experience and from practice that this is often the way that Body Love really shows up. It’s in the daily practice of walking myself out of negative language that is so deeply ingrained in my thoughts, and walking myself into a better light.
It is slow. Some days are easier than others. Some body parts get more of the light.
But the more I practice shedding light, the easier it is to see my body for what it really is!
And rejoice in light and love spreading across the dark areas, that once weighed me down.
Literally and figuratively.
No, what shocked and amazed me in that moment, is that I managed to stay quiet and not insert myself and my blabbering mouth. And let my friend work through it on her own.
We’ve had many many “discussions” about this topic in the past. Where my patience was missing. Where I’ve gotten out my soapbox and refused to come down until I turned blue in the face, or she shut me out completely. I was so militant in the beginning– because I thought I had to be ALL OR NOTHING, or it wouldn’t stick. I was afraid I would go back to the old way.
We’ve had chats where I was gently nudging. I learned more patience. I learned a little forgiveness. Urging her to consider thinking about her body in a new way. I had more useful language. I had a better sense of what it looked like, because I was practicing it too.
We’ve had talks where she called me out, and schooled me on my own bull. My own hypocrisy.
And all that work, and love, and patience with each other brought us to today.
Where in a matter of moments, I watched someone I love deeply, say a very dark thing.
I mean, HATE is not a word that should be thrown around lightly.
But then she realized it. Took her own hand, and walked herself into the light.
And I got to witness it. And it was friggin glorious.
If we would’ve been somewhere more private, I probably would’ve cried. But I got a strange look from the barista, and that reality helped me manage to keep it together at the creamer station.
* * *
Back in the swirling humanity of Starbucks on a weekend.
My friend just said, “I may even love them…” Her arms that is. We’re still talking about arms.
She finally looks up at me. I am standing there smiling like a doof.
She says, “What?”
I finally speak. “Nothing.” I say. “That was just really fun to watch.”
She knows what I am talking about. She realizes what she was able to do as well. She smiles, recognizing her own growth and her own journey. And then she says,
“But for now, I just feel better keeping my arms covered.”
I nodded my head. Because no one GETS IT more than me. She continues,
“So I bought this coral summer sweater. And one more in a neutral.”
And I walked up to her, and I hugged her. I hugged her for a very long time in the middle of Starbucks. When I finally pulled away, I looked her in the eye and said,
“Well, yeah. I mean, you gotta have a good neutral.”
And we laughed. We laughed in the warmth of all the new light.