This is an essay I’m writing for a larger thing, and it’s about coming to the understanding that your body has power. If you have any thoughts on it, let me know!
I grew up on 50 rambling acres of woods, and I spent a lot of time exploring those acres. Flowers were picked, streams were splashed in, and just like in coming-of-age movies, no stone was left unturned… there might be fun bugs under there. I usually did this in a jumper and no shoes, since I had lost several shoes to muddy fields, which I frequented because I liked to pretend I was in quicksand. I stayed dirty.
I was released from the house after a rainstorm one day and celebrated by running up and down the driveway, jumping in puddles and whizzing my stuffed mouse (a creepily lifelike figurine of a stuffed mouse that was covered in actual fur) through the air, when I felt something squish between my toes. I looked down and saw a fat pink earthworm mangled and splattered all over the bottom of my foot. I immediately started sobbing. I loved nature, and I loved all animals and insects, and it never occurred to me that I could possibly hurt anything, intentionally or otherwise. Plus, it was disgustingly sticky, and I couldn’t seem to wipe the earthworm’s guts off of my toes, like some sad little kid version of Macbeth.
I wasn’t sure why this moment stuck with me for my entire life, but I think now that it’s because it’s the first time I remember my body having an effect on things around me. Up until then, I had been a sprite, a fairy, a floaty thing that had no power, could do no harm, and was inconsequential to the people and creatures around me. In this moment, my body ceased to be merely the thing that moved me around. It became a source of power in itself.
Shortly after “the earthworm incident”, my school friends and I form a ragtag dance/lip sync troupe called “The Sensational Six”, and we spend our weekends coordinating dances to “We Didn’t Stop the Fire” and oldies like “My Girl”. We enter a class talent show but lose to the boys who have decided to lip sync to Weird Al’s “I’m Fat”. Figures. My parents, seeing how much I enjoyed the talent show, enrolled my sister and I in dance classes. Ballet, tap, and jazz, and my first ever foray into athleticism. I loved it completely. I am obsessed with the fact that you can go from not knowing how to do a kick ballchange to doing a kick ballchange in just a few short minutes. I love teaching my body new things to do, I love showing off the new things it can do, and I absolutely adore the moment when I look up from my own feet to see the entire dance class moving in unison in the mirror. We are a machine made of 7 year old girls, and we are flush-cheeked and powerful. Dancing makes me feel unstoppable, and I do it everywhere- our driveway, the grocery store, church, and around my parents in circles.
Most of us spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out how to wield this power. I know I have.