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museum pieces

Posted Feb 27 2011 5:13pm

The other day I was having the predictable, and sad and frustrating, discussion about bodies with someone in my office.

She was feeling "so fat" when in reality she's not remotely overweight. 

I'm usually pretty darn careful when someone says this. Of course I hear it a lot, since I spend so much time with people who suffer from eating disorders. I have my standard response, something like "I so totally understand that's the way you see things, and just let me say, for the record, it's a distortion and not at all reality." The discussion can go in a variety of ways from there- sometimes we have to agree to disagree (which is disappointing, but unless someone's in medical danger I sometimes have to just leave the topic for that moment- you know, and come back to it later), but sometimes we get to talk about how people tend to feel "fatter" when they're anxious or feeling some other intense emotion. That's the best outcome of the "I feel so fat" discussion!

Later in the day I was thinking about how these body image discussions are so tricky, and so frustrating for people. And I was trying to think of ways to get the discussions to be more useful and productive.

And I was thinking how we all (not just people who suffer from eating disorders, but many, many, many people) spend so much time focused on what we LOOK like. As if that's the only thing that matters about having a body. As if what we look like is the primary point of being human.

In the Smithsonian museum there is a set of 4 perfectly matched Stradivarius instruments: 2 violins, a viola and a cello. They are gorgeous. They spend most of their time in the museum- hanging out so people can come by and have a look at them. And they are carefully protected and preserved so they don't get injured or eaten by termites or decay- so they stay in "perfect" condition.

But, once in awhile they have gotten to come out- and be played! They've even gotten to go on tour around the world being played, and they've gotten to be played in recordings of the Mozart String Quartets. 

Seriously, do you think these instruments were created to sit around in a museum, looking perfect? Or were they created to be played? I bet if we asked Mr Stradivarius himself he'd tell us he made them to be played.

It seems to me that human bodies are just the same. We weren't designed to be museum pieces- to be looked at and "preserved" so we can be observed as some object. We are designed to move, to play, to cook, to read... to DO things. We're designed to be out in the world (why do you think we have immune systems if we're not supposed to be out doing things?? If we were supposed to spend all of our time encased in glass we wouldn't innately have an immune system!).

If we stay stuck in that view that human bodies are designed to be "looked at," we'll never get out from underneath. There's no way to look "good enough." There's simply no way. And trying to look "good enough" completely misses the point anyway as far as I'm concerned.

The point of getting to have a human body is so we can use that fabulous body to have an interesting life- to do things with our fabulous body.

So, let's try not to buy into the false belief that we're supposed to be museum pieces. Let's take those Strad's out of the Smithsonian and play them!!! They're happiest when they're out getting to play.

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