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Dear Body: I'm Recommitting To Protecting And Nurturing You

Let's change the narrative of what good health and self-esteem looks like.

Wellness

Dear Body:

I have taken you for granted, forsaken you, and lacked appreciation. I've fed you lies, and I didn't take pride in what I had. I hid you on the days I wanted to reveal you. I questioned you when I couldn't believe my eyes. I manipulated you, and I didn't put you on the list as my No. 1 priority. I've sat back and allowed you to dwindle. I've ignored you when you would beg for my attention. At times you would act out in front of your friend's inflammation and soreness. I can feel your resentment you have against me. You should be angry, sad, and filled with trauma. I didn't cherish the love I should have with you. I was ignorant in thinking that in time you will be healed or if I ignored your screams, you would finally keep quiet.

I knew of you, but I chose not to get to know you. I read up on how you function but was never interested enough to apply what I read.

In my teens and early 20s, I would starve you and didn't feed you the nutrients you deserved. I didn't stretch you or take you out on walks. On the days I decided to listen to you, it was too late. By the end of the day, I no longer had it in me to take care of you. I was depleted, tired, and ran down. In my mind, the only way I knew how to heal you was to lay down. I would lay down for twenty minutes to only work my eyes to death, staring at a screen that doesn't give me life. I allowed my brain to be polluted with lies. I didn't train my mind as I should have.

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I didn't love you, and that's what hurts the most. I allowed outside influences such as the fast-food peer pressure lead me into thinking I was doing the right thing. As your roommate, I'm saddened that I allowed us to get to this point. I've made a plethora of promises to get better, and I've failed you.

I say all of this to say, thank you. I thank you for continuously giving me a second chance every day. I thank you for showing patience. I thank you for forgiving me before I make another mistake. I am humbled and blessed to have a friend so loyal and kind.

In seven months, I will be 34, and before that lucky day arrives, I want to do everything in my power to make sure my body will be present on that particular day. I know, I know. We've had this song and dance too many times. I've let that woman dictate when to care for you. I've realized that it is a must that I preserve my body. Any subtle changes to my lifestyle would make you appreciate my love for you more. I can no longer sit on the sidelines on a hot California day and not want to reveal you to the world and take a dip in the pool to keep you cool.

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I can no longer get anxiety walking into a department store, hoping and praying that "something fits", and I can't let how I see you dictate how I internally feel.

For any of us to start loving our bodies, we have to be truthful and meditate on the journey. Once you become open to seeing all of your faults, you can make the necessary first steps. I think we as women have gotten it mixed up. It's evident that we all aren't the same in height, shape, and DNA. I think it's time to think of our bodies as an investment for longevity. We have to be mindful of what we feed our bodies for the long-term. Are those bags of chips worthy of eating or do they have the ability to collect interest as time moves on?

Focusing on how we look in clothes barely scratches the surface. We should start loving and embracing how certain things make us feel instead. I can do it. We can do it. Let's enjoy our bodies together and change the narrative of what health and self-esteem look and feel like.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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