Columns / Discourse / February 18, 2009

Loving your body, modestly

I’ve been with my body all my life, and I’d say we’ve gotten along pretty well. I had never questioned our relationship until, this term, a bunch of posters showed up in the hallways at Knox telling me to love my body, and telling my body to, well, get naked in front of photography students.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always thought of me and my body as like that old married couple who banters wittily. Maybe they make a few jokes at each other’s expense, but underneath, everyone knows they’re really in love. Let’s call them Dave and Dorothy. Just like Dave and Dorothy, Ben and body like to fall asleep to old movies. We like to tease each other (me joking that my body looks like a toothpick, my body farting at inopportune moments) and if we’re sure absolutely sure nobody is watching us, we sometimes like to snuggle.

Asking me to pose for the Love Your Body photo shoot is comparable to asking that lovely old couple, Dave and Dorothy, to reignite their marital passion by starring in a porno. It’s just not going to happen.

Luckily, I have a decent excuse: being a dude. I can think to myself, “Men’s bodies aren’t meant to be loved, they’re meant to be feared!” I mean, guys aren’t supposed to love their bodies; they don’t even need to be aware they have them. With this excuse, I can then pretend it’s completely natural to sometimes wear a swimsuit to the shower, to pile on layers of shirts in hopes they will bunch in muscle-like formations, to be frightened away from the gym afraid the jocks will try to eat me for protein (what little there may be).

But there are still those Knox students, guys and girls alike, with relationships to their bodies less like Dave and Dorothy’s and more like Darla and Dan’s, whose hobbies include whitewater rafting, swinging with the neighbors, and swinging with the neighbors on whitewater rafts. They pose for the photo shoot and they’re proud. If this is you, know I admire you both in your bravery and in The Box Feb. 13 through 20.

Although I have not yet visited the pageant of Knox nakedness, a couple friends of mine have asked me, “Do you want to see my Love Your Body photos?” to which my first response is generally, “But why?” and my second response is, “Sure, what the heck?” My third response, after seeing the photos: “Have you ever thought of us being more than just friends?” The photos themselves are borderline artsy and sexy, show no faces, and in general make me think “perfume advertisement plus nipple.” At least this is what I understand from the quick glances I’ve gathered, because every time I look at one of the pictures, I look away or close my eyes quickly in fear my mother will appear out of nowhere and slap me sharply on the face. But when I have managed to keep my eyes open long enough to observe the person showing the photos, I can generally see a certain pride in them, something in the way they hold themselves that says “Yes, that’s right, I am beautiful.”

Am I jealous? Maybe a little. Jealous in the way Dave and Dorothy are jealous when they’re woken up at two in the morning from the loud music coming from the party going on across the street in Dan and Darla’s house. It’s part jealousy, part frustration, and part just wanting to close your eyes and get back to sleep.

I think there are others out there like me. And I know we can’t come together in the same way the wild ones can, with a skin-showing, cross-dressing conference of festive anti-sexism. But maybe we could get together sometime, watch some Humphrey Bogart, and play bridge

Ben Lee

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