By GEMMA HARTLEY
To my daughter.
I want you to know I am proud of this body, imperfections and loose skin and stretch marks and all. It is mine and only mine, unique and wonderful in its own way.
It may not be the type of body you will see adorning the glossy pages of magazines—thin and tan and tall and flawless. I am at peace with that.
I am still beautiful. My body does not need to fit some ill-conceived notion of perfection. It is already perfect.
My body is strong. Amazing. It has brought life into this world. It has housed you and your brother, kept you safe and warm and healthy even before I knew you existed. These scars and marks on my stomach tell a story. A story of love. If that is not beauty, I do not know what is.
My body has nourished you and comforted you. These breasts that are no longer perky and unmarred, this stomach which is not lean and flat, this face which has aged so quickly; all these things sing of my love for you. How could I not celebrate this body? How could I not think it beautiful?
I know it’s not always so easy. I understand why there are so many women who do not love their bodies. Who have learned to hate their bodies, and because of that, hate themselves. Who criticize their features every time they glance at their reflection. Who chase endlessly after the elusive beauty they see in airbrushed photographs. Who never feel good enough, even though they are.
Because it’s easy to feel ugly when a boy at summer camp tells you that you’re really pretty, except for your nose. Or when a girl in your class makes fun of your flat chest. Or when you flip through teen magazines and suddenly your clothes aren’t good enough, your hair isn’t straight enough, your skin isn’t tan enough, your legs aren’t long enough. It’s easy to feel ugly when there’s always someone whispering in your ear that you could be, should be, better than you are.