Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Sometimes, when I'm out with first grade recess, or when I'm in the tiled hallways, or when I watch children pick at their worn sneakers during math, I wonder how I could have been a child and not realized the incredible urge I had to run. 

Kids run everywhere. And they don't just run - at least once a day I see children vault themselves toward the ceiling, fingers dancing in door frames, untied shoelaces skittering on the floor. Children have such incredible energy, and when I think about anything I've lost in growing up I think about my sore knees and heavy limbs and how part of me still longs, thoughtlessly, to run. 

When we are children, our bodies are sacred. I don't mean untested, and I don't mean anything so puritanical as pure - I mean that we vibrate with captive energy. We scrape and scrabble, we dance and fizz, we treat ourselves with a divine lack of care. Every part of us is sacred, and every part is natural. 

Is this what people hope to preserve?

We hear so much rhetoric and spite when it comes to the human body. Some would be gatekeepers, guarding all against the nastiness, real or perceived, of the world. Some would wish to tell others what is proper or innocent or godly. Some think that innocence is anything other than that rough carelessness of childhood, the eagerness to explore, the feeling of asphalt and the raking of fingers against the sky. 

Some think that restraining the body of a woman means preserving decency, childhood sweetness, and unknowing. And while I applaud the sentiment of sanctity, and I understand the fear of things unsaid, I find so much sadness in relegating the physical to the impure.  

We have all been reading and watching the news, and it seems clear that there are many who believe that they have a say in the bodies and ethics of others. One need not look farther than one's Facebook feed to see reports of bigotry and hate. So many Americans are convinced that their faith or their morals or their upbringing can dictate the actions of others. What is lost, however, is the basic element of gender and personal politics, which is this -

Some people hate their bodies.  Some people hate the bodies of women.  Some people hate being physically tempted and revel in being religiously confined. 

This is, of course, an over simplification. I don't mean to say that any group of political activists consciously hate the human body. Certainly, people like a certain well-known and overly-hyped radio personality seem to revel in all of the intricacies of their flesh. 

But so many of us are maligned. We are cursed.  We are seen to be sinners.

Just today I was reading over material regarding a first confession. Apparently, I'm supposed to remember the sins I committed from as early as seven years old, and confess them as if I had any regret, as if I were at fault for irately stepping on the toes of a cute boy because I didn't know how to express affection. As if I could possibly confess to something, something black and dirty and wriggling, that neither my soul nor my body could reasonably comprehend. This material made me laugh, and it made me so angry. 

We are so obsessed with this idea of sin - religion and American politics has convinced us that sin is this definable thing, this little piece of nature, the flaw in our bodies. Sin is the byword of America. Sin is what makes tea parties out of narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism. We all know this word, and so it has been appropriated as a burrowing fester, an all-known excuse for hating other people, and for hating ourselves.  

I am a woman, and I am proud.  And I am proud of my sister, who is young and still reaches door frames, and I am proud of my mothers, who fight for wisdom and integrity, and I am proud of my grandmothers, who are made of poetry and passion and love.  And, before I am dismissed as a feminist with a match and a plan, I am so proud of the men in my life who love themselves and love me equally. I am proud of the rights I duly claim, and I am proud of the men who champion my rights. 

When I'm not bogged down by my adulthood, when my body springs to fullness, I jump and I run and I touch the ceiling.  

If we are so bothered by the reclamation of childhood, let us not be trapped by the physical and revel instead in the joyful. Never, in all of my childhood, did I think of myself as a sinner.  Never was I Eve - the wanton of temptation. Rather, I was a good beginning.  

I lived in a garden, unshod. And no part of me was wrong.  

And no part of me is wrong.  

I look at my kids. They are so good.  And it isn't because of their bodies - it is because they are who they are, sacred. It is through their roughness, their anticipation of recess, their need to run, that they define what so many wish to possess. Their innocence is in that there is no part of themselves which is hateful. 

How can we allow anyone to denigrate that kind of holiness? How can we let anyone speak of women or lovers as sinful? How can we call our children and our neighbors the fallen Eve, when we all long for that time, that fruit ripe, that moment before we knew that something in us was supposed to be wrong?

I want to run. And I want to love. And no one, no one, can tell me how. 

1 comment:

  1. An antidote to the current stream of nastiness! Preach it, sister.