“All the things I loved in my body before him, and all the new things he made me love, were tainted now by the memory of his touch and the pain of its loss.”

I’ve written here before but I wanted to again because I’ve been thinking about my body a lot recently. My body and mind have both been in flux and it’s been confusing and made me think about a lot of things.

About three months ago, my heart was broken by a man I thought loved me. And heartbreak raised all kinds of issues. Suddenly, my body felt so alone. Alone, and still, everywhere, covered by him. I took to sleeping with my arms and legs wrapped around a pillow, to feel something against me except the emptiness left by him. He was gone, and my body ached for him. Not sexually, because my mind had retreated from sex – from the crushing reality that I wouldn’t be having sex with him any more – but emotionally. All the things I loved in my body before him, and all the new things he made me love, were tainted now by the memory of his touch and the pain of its loss. I couldn’t touch my own body, smell my own scent, without remembering how he had loved it. I still so badly wanted my body to belong to him that it didn’t feel like mine any more.

My appetite faded and I lost weight. I’m thinner now than I was before – not underweight but slimmer. People keep telling me I look really good. I feel ambivalent every time someone tells me that, because I was perfectly happy with my body before and in no way thought I was fat. I feel conflicted in myself when I look in the mirror, enjoying my flatter stomach and then asking myself why I’m buying into that ideal, why I like having a flatter stomach when I didn’t think it was fat before. I still have a big arse – I hope I’ll always have a big arse – but it’s smaller than it was before and I don’t want to lose any more weight. What I see in the mirror varies with my mood. Sometimes, when I feel lonely and unlovable, when – even though I don’t want him back now – I wish he was still here, these breasts seem too small, too saggy, these bags under my eyes jump out at me, this new, flatter stomach is still too pudgy. And then sometimes, when I’m jumping around my bedroom to this song and I’m happy and I’m in my body and I’m feeling like I fucking rock – then I look in the mirror and I know I’m fucking beautiful.

My mind has been so up and down, and my body changing. But I think my mind is on the up these days, and my body finally feels like mine again. I can think of sex now without missing him, I can masturbate and enjoy my body and my mind and a sexual world without him in it. I miss him, or I miss closeness, sometimes when I’m sad. But my body is my own. I want sex again, I want to feel my body against another, I want to enjoy discovering someone.

Another issue this has been raising a lot in my mind recently is that, now I’m single again, sometimes I wonder where I’ll find someone else who doesn’t care that I don’t shave my armpits. I know that anyone who cares is someone I don’t want to be with, but the thought can’t help but cross my mind. It was a choice I made for myself but being with someone who liked it made that choice easier – if I’m being totally honest, it might have been what made the choice possible for me in the first place, although I’m not about to go back on it now.

Sometimes when I’m out in a club and I’m dancing, I catch people staring, nudging their friends to point out the mad hairy woman over there. I love having hairy armpits and, while I can’t deny there is an element of making a political point about it, this is the way I like them. It doesn’t hurt as such when I catch people looking. It makes me a little angry, although I do understand why they look. But it also awakens this socially-inculcated fear that most people find my body disgusting. That I might meet a lovely man at a party and be having a lovely conversation, flirting away, and then reach up to get something and turn around to find him running in disgust and horror from my horrifying armpits.

I know that’s ridiculous. But it’s also not completely ridiculous. The beauty norms of our society make me – I think make all of us – feel the need to justify those things which are “abnormal”. And my hairy armpits are, by societal standards, abnormal. They are an abnormal choice that I’ve made, a choice which is bound up with various implications in people’s minds – dirty, hippie, man-hating… – and even though I love them, I still sometimes feel self-conscious. To put it bluntly, I worry I won’t get laid. Not that I’d want to fuck anyone who gave a shit about my armpit hair – but the idea that someone might find me unattractive because of that one factor of my appearance does cross my mind and it does hurt.

I guess this is all a part of coming back into my own body. It’s partly sexual frustration, partly the normal fear of being alone forever that surfaces when we find ourselves single against our will. It’s a big part societal norms that I’ve absorbed even though I consciously reject them. It’s the memory of shaving my armpits for the first time after some girls made fun of me on the bus to PE when I was thirteen. But I’m not on the PE bus now (thank fucking Christ) – I’m twenty-three now, and I love my hairy armpits, and someone else will too.

I’m so glad to be back in touch with my body. It’s no longer a site of too many memories of happiness gone sour; it’s a site of happy memories to come. It’s a place I’m living in again. I look in the mirror and it’s all mine; it’s not missing anything by not being next to his.

by Hannah

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