My lover says I am tiny. She is tall, so even with my not too scrappy 5′ 7″ and my somewhere-around-120 kgs, she can make me feel little. We discovered this the first time we made love; her hand here her mouth here and everything a perfect fit. Ease. I feel it when I adopt a child-like snuggly posture against her and her arms fit easily around me. When we dance in the kitchen and the inside of my elbows rest on her waist like they were meant to be there, the feeling of being right-sized frees me.
I’ve always been big, you see. Felt ungainly, conspicuous, too much. Always too much until now.
We are supposed to love ourselves. Somewhere between self-help books and liberal feminism lies the rhetoric of body image and self care. Platitudes about living mindfully in one’s skin, being gentle with oneself, celebrating individuality, finding ‘inner beauty’ sit alongside both the cynicism of beauty short-cuts and the politics of female empowerment. It’s feminist to love yourself. It’s also, conveniently, supposed to make you more fuckable.
What we forget sometimes, is that love is not distributed equally. Not everyone was taught that they were worthy of love.
Those of us with marginalised bodies and identities have heard it before; you will be happy if you love yourself. You will be loved if you love yourself. You will be more attractive if you just believe in yourself.
This message still spreads as insidiously as those fake weird tips to lose belly fat fly around the internet. But it seems to me that it is most often those coming from a position of recognisable lovability, if not fuckability, who are saying this. Married women. Celebrity women. Economically powerful gay men. Syndicated columnists. Comfortably middle-class white women. Dove commercials. Unsurprisingly, from fat activists, trans writers and disability activists a more nuanced discussion emerges, one which leaves space for ambivalence towards bodies which sometimes hurt to inhabit.
And yet, I do love myself and my body. I like my body when it is with [her] body.
Sex is transformative and creative and, yes, personal, but also radical. Also political.
Our desire is not meant to be spoken. Women have always had to struggle against the rules of propriety — of patriarchy — to speak of real passion and of sexuality that belies their agency. Especially when their passion is enacted outside of marriage, outside of heterosexuality, outside of beauty norms, outside of prescriptions of many kinds.
But I am a writer and so is my lover and she inscribes her desire on my skin, and words will find a way to rise to the surface.
Love binds us. It drives us to face up to bigotry. It inspires work; the work of thinking and writing and creating is fueled in partnership. It helps us to create family and community. It makes us glimpse our best selves and strive to reveal them again and again.
And ours is a physical love, as much as it is a literary one. There are as many different ways to love and have relationships (or not have relationships) as there are bodies and hearts to inhabit them. All I can speak of is our way.
If to love your body is a necessary goal (and I am not convinced it always is) then it is certainly one that is easier to reach when you have help. I love, because I am loved. I am worthy of touch, because I am touched. I embrace my right to pleasure because I am given pleasure.
Sometimes, talk of falling in love skates close to boasting; or worse, over-sharing. The acronym TMI is short-hand for cultural discomfort not only with bodies, but with emotions. And I am well aware that our stigmatised bodies and our queerness, even our age and maternal roles, mean that there is even less space afforded to my partner and I to tell our truth. Millions will sing along as Beyonce and Jay Z proclaiming drunk in love we be all night but few will want to hear of this fat suburban mum staying up late, intoxicated by her lover’s touch.
I write this anyway.
From the beginning, we joked that each time we fuck is a radical act of body positivity. To say publicly and unabashedly that we do fuck, a lot, and we love it, is more than too much information; it’s a challenge to patriarchy and cis supremacy and heteronormativity. And it’s beautiful.