Excuse me for a moment whilst I strip in front of you (On body image and masculinity)

by joelmckerrow

I remember the day that I divorced from my body. A cut and a separation. I was fourteen and hairy and she was fifteen and told me that she would never date someone with a hairy back. I crumbled. Stumbled. Ran. Headfirst out of that room.


Headfirst. It is the right word. My body did not follow. I left it behind. Forgot that I had one. It was easier that way. I began to wear t-shirts to the beach during teenage years so that I didn’t have to show myself to the world. And I knew that girls had body issues but I was never told that men could have them too. It is too harsh a world with too many a critic and too much to be insecure about in the face of so many opinions. I could not live up to who they wanted me to be.

Sometimes I wish that we were all just science-fiction heads held in glass jars interacting with the world around us through mechanical arms. It would certainly make life easier. But I am not and you are not and we are not made to be like everybody else, to have the same body as everybody else. Any body becomes no body when they try to be like every body.

My body is red hair and the freckles. My body is hairy back and the hairy shoulders. My body is awkward and the lumpy bumpy bits. My body is beginning to not work as well as it once did. Creak of back. Limp of ankle. I have never looked magazine ready. It would take a long time to photoshop the hairiness from the pages. So I refuse to laser my hair away. I refuse to give in to the ideal of smooth skin with no blemish. No blemish. It is a lie that does not become us.

Whilst blemish is seen as a defect. A beauty marred. The origin of the word actually comes from the same root word as to make white. To shine. To burn bright. So call me blemished. A beauty that shines not out of some so called perfection, but out of the broken, out of the marred and the scarred and the flawed and the bumpy and the hairy and all the ways I do not measure up to the masculine image.

The blemished bits. These are the bits that make us truly unique. Within Japanese artistry there is a form of pottery repair known as Kintsugi. A Japanese potter sits with a cracked ceramic and she does not repair the broken pot, she fills its cracks with a golden lacquer. Does not see seamless as goodness. The gold highlights the cracks, it does not hide them and it is this which makes the pottery even more beautiful. The clearly visible fractured golden seams. Those things that we perceive to be defect, perhaps they are those things that make us most beautiful, most unique. And of course I am not just talking about body image. I am talking all the ways that we perceive ourselves as too broken, too marred, too scarred, too fractured and too weak. I am talking of all the cracks that appear upon the surface. I am talking of a life smashed upon the ground only to be taken up into fragile hands and remade mosaic again.

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I learnt many years ago to look at myself in the mirror and to love what I see there. This includes the hairy and the freckly and the bumpy. This is me. There is no other pot that is cracked and put back together in just the same way.

Hold me up to the light.

See how I shine.

And so I say this to the too hairy, the too skinny, the larger than everybody else, the freckly, the acne, the big ears and the pock-marked skin, to the oddly shaped nose and the squinty eyes and the large thighs and the belly that wont stay flat and the shoulders that hunch and the breasts too small and the chest not large enough, to every part of you that is deemed not suitable I say,

“Come out to play.

Turn your body to the light.

See how she shines.

Blemished and beautiful.

Get to know her again

and always, always,

choose yourself.”