It’s been a while since we’ve had an honest talk and the last couple of months I feel like we’ve been drifting apart. These days we hardly ever make eye contact and I think you know why…
You used to be a place where I felt comfortable, confident and happy in, but since moving to Thailand, you became a stranger, turning me into a hostile person. To say the least dear body, I was not a happy camper.
You came here skin glowing, breasts perky and a full mane of hair. I don’t know what Thailand did to you (or was it something that I did to you?) but after the first few months, you went through a major transformation.
The hot sun was angrily beating down on me. I perspired constantly and excessively. My breasts withered and died on me. My heels turned hard with each step, my armpits smelled more pungent. And then there’s the sweat. So much sweat. Every nook and cranny of my body was soaked after a day of teaching on a hot afternoon in an even hotter classroom. The constant sweat on my brow forced my skin to break out. Overnight, hair started growing on the top of my toes like Bilbo fucking Baggins.
All of these bodily changes were scary, to say the least, but when these changes started affecting my hair, I reached my lowest point. My hair started thinning and god I could not keep count with the strands that I was pulling out of my head after every wash. White scalp started showing and split- ends became a given.
And while all of these changes were busy happening, there was the unvarying hunger. The constant cravings. I have never been a big eater, but by god, I started eating my way through Thailand, one delicious sticky rice and fried chicken at a time, washed down by sickening sweet but oh so delicious ice coffee. (Everything in Thailand is made with so much fucking sugar!). A quick stop at 7/11 wasn’t a convenience, it turned into a commodity. I could literally eat every hour of the day. I have never in my 28-years of existence stuffed my face so frequently, so desperately.
After a long week of teaching, I like to unwind with a tasty alcoholic beverage. Wine used to be my weapon of choice, but that sweet nectar of the gods came with a very expensive price here in Thailand. So I settled for beer, an ice cold treat after a long day. Thank you, beer, but also fuck you. For turning my flat tummy into a pot belly. Urgh.
I was still exercising fairly often, but you, dear body, finally decided to hang up your good genes and get fat on me. Okay, okay, not mortally obese fat, but pot belly, wiggly thighs- fat. Something I have, up until now, been very blessed without. I started practicing yoga, but all that Downward Dog ever did for me was letting me stare directly into the barrel of the gun, the wobbly, cellulite ridden thighs that looked like cottage cheese. And that just made me hungry… again…. What a depressing sight.
Yoga did at least give me a straight posture, but even so, I could now see a belly hanging over my too-tight denim shorts. Yes, I could actually grab a fist full of shameful fat and feel it with my bare hands. The shame. The horror. But still, I could not stop eating. (Was I perhaps compensating for something else?) Stretch marks big enough to show up on Google Maps appeared on my butt cheeks. (Note that through all of this, my boobs decided to shrink even more… oh the irony).
My new living courters only came with a small mirror, just big enough to see myself crying whilst staring at my thinning hair. It is perhaps a blessing that I never have to look at the complete 1.8m of my now clearly deteriorating body. But every time I use the restroom at a restaurant and catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror, I want to start crying and cursing and eating… at the same time.
Out of shape, out of shame, I decided to take a naked selfie one beer lubricated night and do some serious introspection. And the picture wasn’t pretty. Who was this poor girl standing there in her sweaty bra and panty? I did not know her, nor did I like her. I have never had to carry her around with me before. How am I going to go home in a few weeks looking like this? I have always been content with my body, I loved it, and it loved me. Now I feel uncomfortable wearing my favorite denim shorts because my legs feel like sausages being stuffed with too much meat.
My lowest point came one morning when I was drying my hair and in the morning sunlight caught a glimpse of something shiny on my head. No, it wasn’t a washed out blond strand of hair. Instead, it was a long and prominent gray hair. In about 3 seconds I plucked that fucker right out of my skull, staring at it in disgust and disbelieve. How was this even possible? After a week, another one appeared… and then, one solemn Saturday morning, I discovered a cluster of gray hair, not hiding, but parading like Cape Town Pride on my head. That is it. My life was over.
Dear body. This is my apology letter.
This letter is to tell you that I’m sorry and I that I still love you. Yes, every gray hair, jiggling and sagging part of you. You see, as I was driving home one night on my little petrol pony, the soft air blowing through my hair, I realized that I was smiling… for no apparent reason. I was smiling because I am happy. My soul is happy. Yes, Buddha, Gandhi, Dalai Lama, they were all right. Happiness shines from the inside out. What I’m feeling and experiencing in Thailand has nothing to do with the size of my thighs. I’m not going to appreciate Thailand more if I have a photo with rock hard abs next to a Buddha statue.
Dear, beautiful body of mine, if I’m not going to love you, how are you ever going to let any boy touch or love you again? How are you ever going to wear your denim shorts without worrying about what your bum looks like? How will you ever feel confident with growing out your natural hair color, when you are constantly staring at a few gray strands? How are you ever going to let your breasts be fondled with if you worry about the size of them?
Dear body, this is your owner, reminding you to embrace your current life. If you want to drink a beer after a long week, unbutton your pants and bottoms up! But, if you feel like going for a run, run like Charlie Hunnam is behind you. If you feel like eating chocolate pudding out of a cup from 7/11, for fuck sakes, take pleasure in it! If you want to do yoga naked in your room… turn off the aircon and sweat it out!
Call it a Yin and Yang philosophy if you will, call it not-giving-a-fuck, call it self-acceptance, but don’t ever despise the temple that you carry around with you every day of your existing life.
Every god damn day. Inside and out. Because if you don’t, No one ever will.