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When I see “Love Your Body” bro tanks around campus, I get excited. Let’s love our bodies! YEAH! Let’s do that! Two years ago, if I had heard about this week’s “Love Your Body Day,” I would have looked skeptically: “Well that’s a little cheesy.” Five years ago: “Well that’s stupid.” “Loving your body” enabled people to accept being overweight. Want to do nothing about being fat? Love your body. Want to ignore your flaws? Love your body.
What changed from sixteen to twenty-one?
I learned about love.
As adults, I think we can agree rom-coms do not represent love—too romantic, too funny. “Casablanca”: arguable. “Romeo and Juliet”: a little aggressive. “Love The Way You Lie”: That just isn’t healthy.
So what is love? It’s a balance.
To love truly, you must love wholly. See the good, see the bad, like the good, dislike the bad, but love a person for it all. The challenge is to balance those perceptions of good and bad so as to not thrust people onto a pedestal, because you cannot truly, wholly love a statue, an inanimate thing—sorry Erika Eiffel. Two-way love is opening yourself up, showing your good, your bad. Love is extreme because it outlasts so much, but it does not live on the extremes of “perfect” or “disgusting.” On the edge, you have no wiggle room—you are sure to fall.
Love requires interplay. Interplay requires vulnerability. Vulnerability requires respect. Respect requires honesty.
We can learn about love through the relationships around us. No two loves or lovers’ give-and-takes are the same. But those who love will at times be kind, fight, make-up, understand, play, criticize, listen, touch, laugh, frown, smile, cry, scream, et cetera, because all true, lasting loves will experience all emotions, and in the end, it will balance out. Yet who is to say it is not a net-positive balance? After all, we seek love because it makes life better.
But, what is it to “love your body?”
It’s dancing around my room banging my head up and down while belting lyrics to my favorite new song. It’s lying in the sun for hours until my skin is bronzed with a touch of burn. It’s my sister and me stealing the whipped cream off Dad’s dessert, giggling as he glares at us. It’s sprinting after my friends, dashing to get to that store before closing. It’s squatting more than my body weight. It’s making pie dough with my bare hands. It’s taking a nap. It’s kissing him softly, gently, without fear. It’s crying five times watching Blood Diamond. It’s walking barefoot.
It’s a respectful, honest, balanced interplay between mind and body.
We are neither just mind nor just body. Our minds are trapped in our bodies; our bodies are trapped in our minds. Allow them to love each other.
Sixteen-year-old me looked in the mirror and said she was beautiful because her body was skinny. She disregarded her mind: no beauty there. Twenty-one-year-old me is a constant exchange of senses from body to mind and from mind to body. She is honest, she is kind, she is critical, she listens, and she loves. She is neither perfect nor disgusting. She loves her mind. She loves her body.
Love can scare us. It’s vulnerable, and it’s honest. Yet, how liberating it is.
Julie S. Monrad ’15 lives in Leverett House.
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