“You have man arms.”
“Your sideburns make you look like Elvis.”
“Why are your arms so hairy?”
“How did you get so hairy?”
“Why are you so hairy?”
My earliest body hatred memory is around age five. Sadly, that’s about the age most girls have their first body hate thoughts. I remember shaving one arm. Yes, ONE arm. Just one. I don’t know why just one. Six year olds don’t always make sense. I remember being in the entryway to my Grandma Bohot’s kitchen, her grabbing my arm and saying, “Oh honey, why did you do that?” I remember feeling such sadness about it. I felt such shame and embarrassment that she noticed. I also remember feeling like I had no choice, like I HAD to get rid of it. It’s such a clear memory.I started shaving my legs before everyone else in school. I think I was nine years old. I just went for it. Razors weren’t what they are now. I was constantly nicking myself.
I loved school. I was always the teacher’s pet and wanted to be a teacher myself (I even made lesson plans for my brother and the neighbor kids. I took playing school seriously. I took damn near everything seriously back then. See serious first grade photo below) but I remember wailing to my mom, begging her to let me stay home. Bullying is no joke. It stole joy from the thing I loved the most.
In high school I used different products to bleach the hair on my arms. Did you know arm hair grows? I didn’t know that then. So I had grow out. Not what I wanted at all. Thanks to being regularly reminded that it wasn’t acceptable, my hatred of my hairiness carried on for years. In college, I remember being in the cafeteria and a kid Zach saying, “Oh my god! Your arms are SOOOO hairy.” A dude named Tyler piped up and said, “Do you think she didn’t know that or that you’re the first one to point it out?” I loved Tyler. Warm spring days were the worst. I’d have anxiety over exposing my arms. There were always a period of adjustment as the weather got nicer.
I mentally made plans to one day save up and laser it all off. In my twenties, a friend’s boyfriend looked at my arms and said, “When are you going to take care of that?” I told him I was waiting to see if I had a daughter because I would feel awful if she was hairy and went through what I went through. I wanted to keep it to support her through the bullying.
And then I lost my fucks. I got exposed body acceptance. For something that doesn’t sound that radical, it definitely is. I was at my first Health at Every Size® training at Be Nourished when they asked us to think back to our first body hatred memories. They pointed out that they are often not feelings we develop on our own, but feelings we let other choose for us. YUP. I let the little shits at school decide how I should feel about my body. I also realized that if I was really honest with myself, I was worried about not feeling accepted by those who thought my hair was gross. And then I realized I didn’t want to be accepted by those people, that my worth far exceeded how I looked and if someone wasn’t going to hang with me because of my hair, they could fuck off. If I wanted body acceptance and liberation for my clients, I had to find it too. There was NO way I could become a dietitian and try to help clients accept their bodies if I had plans to laser the hell out of mine.
A couple years ago, I drastically changed my hair color and sent the photo to a handful of peeps. An older woman I’m very close to responded and told me that I was beautiful but suggested I take care of the hair on my upper lip. She told me to not be mad and that I could tell her to get botox. In the past, that sort of thing would have completely crushed me but with no fucks about that kind of thing left in my bucket, I responded and said something like, “Here is why I will never tell you to get botox. Because your wrinkles have no effect on the kind of relationship we have or the kind of mother, sister and friend you are. Because I value how you listen, give advice, laugh with me.” I asked her to never ask me to change anything about my body, that the if and when of me waxing my upper lip is completely up to me and not up for discussion. EVER. I told her that this body of mine with all it’s hair is just the vessel of one powerhouse of a woman, dedicated to changing the lives of those around her, something that can be done with or without hair on my upper lip.
I used to be an anxious little mouse. Clients are shocked when I tell them how timid I used to be. Losing all your fucks doesn’t happen overnight. It’s painfully hard at first. Sometimes I would drop them and then pick them back up when I was say, going on a first date. But the more I lost them, the better I felt. A neural pathway of body hatred had been created in my brain and it took work to make a new one. But I did. You can too.
I want to acknowledge that the bullying I received is nothing compared to the stigma and bullying that others face. I’m thin. If you have never listened to the experiences of those in bigger bodies or of those who are any color but white, you will likely hear things worse that what I have shared. I’ve also had the privilege of having family, friends and coworkers who have helped me to lose my fucks about things that aren’t important as well as the finances to be in therapy over the years. Oh, and I work in an amazing field and am reminded daily how much space body hatred can take up in someone’s life. I refuse to make space for it in mine. I am also reminded daily that others don’t have the journey as easy as I have had it but I’m determined to walk with them through it and closer to the freedom that I now experience.
My newest tattoo is from Christopher Poindexter. I stumbled across his poem on instagram over a year ago and knew immediately I’d get it inked at some point.
Love y’all. –Ames