My Body, My History

Our national mythos may center on reinvention, but our collective consciousness cannot be wished away by obliterating our scars. We have to wear the markings with pride and celebrate their existence. My second husband does not understand the concept. “I want you to look like you never had children.” Frowning, he points to the excess skin and stretch marks on my abdomen. “I don't find you attractive otherwise.” I sigh with frustration. This man, who recently entered my life, desires nothing more than to erase the forty-seven years that came before him. Through plastic surgery, he wants to cut away the excess skin around my abdomen from carrying children and pull tight the remaining stretch marks until they disappear. If I choose to wear the scars where they landed, I will lose my second husband. “I don't find you attractive,” he says, which explains why we no longer make love. At first, under the blush of newness and the dimness of bedroom lighting, he ravished my body with the urgency of someone who had come to the table dying of thirst. Now, he pushes away from the table, refusing to sip from the same cup he married. How absurd, I think. Over the next two years, we argue and argue. The wedge between us widens until the dog sleeps between us, a physical reminder of our sexual abstinence. Eventually, in the third year, he threatens to file for divorce. “I don't understand why you won't have the surgery done.” He tosses up his arms in exasperation. “I'm paying for the expense. I'll hire a nurse to take care of you. I'll hire a chef and a housekeeper, so you can stay bedridden for the full three to six months of recovery.” I place my hands on my hips and broaden my stance. Narrowing my eyes, I counter. “My body is my history. It's the only thing I have left from the divorce.” Lifting his gaze toward the ceiling, he raises his arms. “That's exactly why you should want this mommy makeover as much as I do.” Shaking my head, I sigh. He doesn't understand. “Keep your money. I don't want the surgery.” He shook his fist. “I'll file for divorce.” Lifting my chin, I stare into his eyes. “Is that what you really want?” I step closer, wrapping my arms around his waist, pulling him tight against me. His pulse gallops against my chest. “No.” He slumps forward, his face falling into my hair. “Not really.” For a moment, we call a truce. I don't know how long it will last. I wish my husband understood I am comfortable in my skin. My body is the only thing I have. My scars are the only reminders of the children I bore, the same children my husband does not want to acknowledge. To keep the skin and scars is essentially saying, “Here is my history. Here is my legacy. Here is all I am, and all I am offering you.” When my husband refuses to see the beauty in my scarred body, I seek validation elsewhere. After stripping for another man, I sit naked on the side of his bed. He kneels before me like a disciple before a goddess. Tenderly, he kisses my breasts, my stomach, and my thighs. He gazes with adoration and declares, “You are beautiful.” The softness in his brown eyes mirrors the gentleness in his deep voice. I am beautiful, just as I am, no plastic surgery needed. When I refuse to alter my body for my husband, what I am really saying is, “Please, do not erase me.” I want to be seen with the eyes of the artist lover who called me beautiful. I want to be with a man who does not want to change me. I want to be with someone who allows me the freedom to be me just as I allow him the freedom to be whoever he is. We should not want to wipe away a difficult history and start fresh. W should embrace our past and reconcile our future. Will my husband ever get right with my body—the excess skin, the stretch marks, the cellulite, the age marks? Or will he seek someone else with a less difficult history? Only time will tell. For whether we want to or not, time changes us. All we have is our history.

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