I used to exercise as a means of disappearing. That is, I wanted to shrink my body and by proxy, the space I took up in the world. Looking back, I believe it was more than living up to those gorgeous glossy photos in magazines or the slick images on television and in the movies. It was less about being noticed and more about folding into myself.
I am not the only female to be cut by comments tossed my way as if the edges weren’t sharp. It begins in elementary school when suddenly simply being a girl becomes a detriment both on playing fields and in social circles. In high school I was told that my cheerleading uniform made my thighs look too thick. In college I was informed that I was almost pretty enough to model…but not quite. A significant other felt I cut my long hair out of spite and stated that pregnant women should never dance, successfully halting my second trimester groove along with ABBA.
It was not until I became the mother of a daughter that I started seeing these comments for what they truly were: panicked attempts to regain control. I was simply starting to shine a little too brightly and those small men were frightened by a strong woman. I wasn’t looking for their approval and thus earned their disapproval. What do I want for my daughter? Certainly not for her confident stride to falter beneath such pitiful assaults. And as the mother of sons, I strive to make certain they will never use launguage so callous and lastingly hurtful.
Because though the years distance me from it and perspective has altered my view, I still feel that initial sting. I yearn to transport myself back to those moments, with my thirty six years of experience and strength, and reply that actually, my thighs are muscular and strong so I can support my teammates; I am beautiful no matter my hair length, color, or style; and there is no better time in a woman’s life to dance than when she is dancing with her unborn child.
So now, I exercise as a means of expanding myself and my life. I take part in events and races, charity walks and classes. My presence grows every day. I look nothing like the magazine covers. I look like a busy mom of four who is often unable to find the time or inclination to apply makeup but always manages to carve out at least thirty minutes to exercise. My hair is short again, with a dash of pink. Sometimes I ‘hawk it out and feel a little like a Warrior Queen with my newly ripped bi’s and tri’s. And the man beside me reminds me everyday that I am amazing and that as I age, I am only becoming more beautiful to him.
So, ladies…train like girls. Sweat. Pant. Grunt when those last three reps or that last mile are pushing you towards (good) failure. Be proud of how far you have come. If your goal is to lean out, do it. But never ever disappear. I’ve been saving space for you right here.