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I Love That For You {Guest Essay from Emily Peele}

Hi there captivating blog readers! My life has me unable to blog as frequently as I once was. I’m creating content once a week on Mondays and have decided to open up this platform for other writers to share when they feel led to! My first Wednesday guest post was sent to my inbox from one of my dearest and most insightful friends. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and chew on the words of Emily Peele.

To whom it may isolate and concern: I deeply believe the following examination appeals to all human insecurity and should not only be viewed from the lens of the female experience.  Somehow in the last year I have awoken to find that I, in fact, have been born into a female body and will likely only know the human experience through this vehicle.  So, I speak from the only lens I know.
‘ I love that, for you! ‘
It’s a phrase I’ve been fixated on for months. It’s a seemingly innocuous comment I say over and over daily in the voices of absurdist comic Kate Berlant or the parodied female characters of Iliza Shlesinger.  The phrase fascinates me because it’s one of many socially acceptable responses to another persons self-disclosure which refuses to enter into any sort of true empathetic space between the two individuals.  Both of the afore mentioned comedians and many other social commentators poke at the way that a sing-songy female voice often successfully masks both spiteful and inane comments all day long. The emphasis of ‘for you’ is slipped in discreetly at the end of a proclamation of that powerful word of love.
           Recently, however, I have been dissecting the use of this phrase from a different vantage point.  I consciously look for the times that ‘I love that, for them’ passes through my brain silently.  Strangely, in the face of all my hatred for this sentiment…I actually think it quite often.  I look at my friends who never wear make-up and are still so attractive and sexy to all genders…and I think ‘I love that, for them’. They are often the same women who wear clothing that isn’t form fitting or overtly sexualized, they exude femininity while wearing overalls and flannels and I think ‘I love that, for them’.
 I fetishize the curves of voluptuous women both celebrities and friends who are comfortable with not having a thigh gap or who have soft and round figures and I think ‘I love that, for them’.  I think of friends who quit safe, well-paying, jobs to travel, to do more meaningful and much lesser paying work, or who begin to work for themselves and monetize their own art, and I think ‘I love that, for them’.
I notice all the baddass women who don’t shave their bodies, whose pit hair is real and erotic. I follow the stories of Petra Collins, and those like her, in her crusades to liberate the female body and de-stigmatize the bush, and free the nipple.  Again, I passionately resolve ‘I love that, for her’.
         I slowly come to take notice that my big issue of repugnance with this phrase was my belief that people who say this don’t really love that thing at all.  That to respond this way is a passive-aggressive way of telling someone that they are lower and to assert ones own privilege to judge.  Instead, I notice that in my own thoughts,
that I know deeply that i do Love, Like and even Want all those things.
I mean to say that I want my thighs to be thick and strong and touch in the middle. I want to have curves and feel feminine.  I want to confidently leave my house without makeup.  I want to still feel sexy in clothes that don’t put my body on display.  I want to monetize my art and believe that I can find peace and value in a non-traditional career path.  I want to have body hair and I want the female body to be liberated and accepted in all its forms.
The real issue lies in the ‘for you’ or the ‘for them’ part of that phrase.  Perhaps we do not say it from a place of asserting dominance consciously but rather the opposite, from a deep place of totally yet un-acknowledged self-critique.
              My Nana passed away this Christmas and through her passing came the opportunity to delve into the collection of photographs from her almost 90 years alive.  I got to see that always strange, tangible proof that yes, even our grandparents were once young and cool and strong and attractive.  I saw her dolled up in heels and skirt suits of the 40s and 50s and saw how cute she was and how much I look like her.  I saw my dimple and my exact nose on her face and her smiling round cheeks in every picture.
I was struck by her beauty and its softness, warmth and childlike innocence.  I saw many of my features in her face and body.  I felt the truth that I am unable to extend the same admiration and adoration that I have for her brand of beauty to myself.  I have always been this petite, cute and young looking girl and for whatever reason not forgiven myself of the atrocity of being born without an angled European jawline and a woman’s curvaceous body.
My mother asked me to give the eulogy for my nana and in the writing process I focused on her sacrifice for others and her deep tendency to always value others before herself.  In many ways it was a beautiful trait which set up her children and her grandchildren with emotional and financial support.  However, entangled in those strengths of hers was my resentment for her inability to stick up for herself, for her lack of confidence and curiosity in life.  I came to confront my disappointment in her passiveness and patriarchal dependency throughout her life.  I recognized that without intentional repaving that I had long observed and was beginning to mimic her self-doubting and fear-based choices.
        I am being most honest when I write the following. I do not believe I am as worthy of love if my clothes do not fit like a wispy model.  I do not think I am as worthy of love if my cheeks are round, if my stomach is not flat, if my arms have flesh on them.  I do not, evidently, truly believe that I will be desired sexually if I have natural body hair. I do not think I am attractive enough to wear boys clothes or go without makeup.  I feel I must make up for some femininity or appeal that I am innately lacking.  I do not believe that I am as successful in the eyes of the world, or even in the eyes of my family if I follow a non-traditional professional path.  I do not feel as socially relevant if I am poor and cannot participate in the culinary and retail luxuries of a progressive city and therefore I follow a more dependable career path to ensure a positive self-inflicted value appraisal.
I am doing nothing actively in my self-presentation to challenge the societal expectations of what a woman is allowed to look like.  I am not working towards liberating the female body and I have certainly not freed my own body from deep a cultural critique freely given at my own hands.
To move forward from this space of confession, I can only point to my Good News, the gospel message which I have encountered in the great feminist author, bell hooks.

“No woman who chooses self-loving ever regrets her choice. Self-love brings her greater power and freedom. It improves her relationships with everyone. But most especially it allows her to live in community with other women, to stand in solidarity and sisterhood. “

-bell hooks
Briar DeHaven - February 25, 2015 - 10:09 pm

Transformative honesty that liberates the rest of us to do the same open talking. Thank you for this openness and for closing with our monarch of feminist thought, bell hooks.

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