“Sometimes I think my body’s forgotten how to feel, or chosen to forget.”

Sometimes I think my body’s forgotten how to feel, or chosen to forget. I don’t remember any more what it feels like to want someone. I think my heart is too scared. It’s frightened of breaking, so it locked itself away.

I love my body. I think it’s beautiful, and resilient. It heals itself, and it makes it possible for me to make it through endless nights at work. It puts up with my smoking. But sometimes it feels like no one else will ever love it again. I don’t mean the guys at work who look me up and down, or end conversations with, “You’ve got great tits, by the way”, or who put their hands on me. Those men don’t love my body. They don’t want to revel in my body, to lick the sweat from my skin and the blood from my cunt and find joy in the way it makes me shiver. And sometimes I’m scared that no one will love my body the way he did. Like that man who didn’t love me as much as he loved drugs. The first man who didn’t just not mind fucking me if I was bleeding, but who’d put his face between my legs and make me come, and kiss me with my blood on his lips. Who loved the hair under my arms, who would inhale its scent and lick the sweat from me while he fucked me. The first man who loved all of my body, and who didn’t make any part of my womanhood seem disgusting, or something to put up with. He was the twenty-third man I slept with.

I haven’t seen him in a year, except awkwardly, in the smoking areas of clubs. He was wrong for me and I don’t want him now. But his existence reminds me of everything I’m scared I won’t find again. I’m scared that when he broke my heart, he made me lock it away against my will. I’ve forgotten what it feels like for my body to want someone, really want them, because wanting means risking disappointment. Wanting means eventual betrayal, and broken hearts. Wanting leads to sadness.

And so sex is something I want in an abstract way. Sometimes I have sex because it’s there, because I want to feel skin on mine and arms around me and a cock inside me. My body wants sex but it doesn’t want them. I hardly remember what it feels like to look across a room at someone and just ache with wanting them. I’m scared to let sex make me feel something that isn’t physical, because my feelings are so dangerous. I long to be able to share my body again in a mutual way, to want his pleasure as much as I want my own, to look into someone’s eyes instead of keeping mine shut or looking away because somehow, eye contact is more intimate than fucking. My body is scared to feel because my heart doesn’t want to break.

“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

“I have faith in my naked body for all it can do, and I look forward to what I’ll go through with it – as scary as it all does seem.”

I think what I’m struggling with is the fact I am a lot slimmer now than a few years back and I’m not used to it. I still feel chubby and squished. People often tell me how slim I’m looking and I don’t really get it. I don’t feel any slimmer, and I sure as hell don’t eat like I’m slim – I enjoy cake and pizza on a regular basis. So although I am slimmer, I still wobble and have podge because I don’t really exercise (because I don’t want to, I’m a waitress so am on my feet all day and I tend to walk everywhere). Sometimes I wonder if I should exercise, my body would be healthier, I could be toned or at least shape up, but I don’t want to lose weight, I often feel embarrassed when people comment on my weight as I don’t fully understand why I am this size.

I used to be pretty curvy, although I had a small waist. My boobs were massive, as were my hips. I don’t really remember it bothering me to the point where I did much about it, although I recently found a diary entry where I’d written tips from a ProAna site, and that sort of bothered me. It was like I wanted a quick way to get slim, but I was too lazy to even do it properly. The weight did start falling off me when I was about 18 though, I was dancing a lot more and changed my eating habits unintentionally – I stopped snacking, which was a big problem for me when I was 14-17 (echo bars and a lot of cheese especially). Then I think I had another unintentional weight loss after the break up from my last boyfriend. I just sort of lost my appetite, and it’s not really returned. I basically eat what I want when I want, which is usually little and often, and I think my body reflects this. Thing is, I talk here about losing weight, and my weight is often on my mind but, I really don’t care. I find that I am happier when I eat and do what I want (or not do if it involves exercise), my body constantly changes and I try not to keep up with it and be too involved but I think that is where I need to change. I don’t see myself as slim because I don’t know my body, I don’t even feel like I have much control over it. But yet, sometimes I worry I may be too controlling. I would never not eat another biscuit or cake because I was worried of the fat content, but sometimes I just forget to eat and a small voice inside says “that’s probably a good thing considering all the crap you ate last night”. It’s like the chubbier girl I once was is wanting me to be slim and the person I am now doesn’t care but is still listening to that part of me. I went from no hips or boobs when I was 13 (I vividly remember being laughed at for not having to wear a bra due to them being so small) to having these massive boobs and curvaceous hips, and then to lose them (sort of) – part of me is like ‘yes!’ and part of me is like ‘no!’. I’m still as self conscious of my body, which makes me fully aware of the fact that being slimmer does not equal happiness. I think being healthy does though. I don’t want to look like models or actresses or whatever, but it doesn’t stop me from gazing at their smooth blotch-free legs and wishing mine were a bit more like that. But it’s fucking unrealistic and what I’ve recently come to believe is that flaws are what make woman beautiful. Real women can never look flawless and that is a good thing! That’s what makes us beautiful.

I guess what I’m trying to say is my feelings towards my body have been quite confused, are quite confused, but I’m hoping to sort that. With time, I know these things don’t happen over night, nor do they stay consistent, but I have faith in my naked body for all it can do, and I look forward to what I’ll go through with it – as scary as it all does seem.