• Richie Crowley

Dear Body, It Wasn't Love At First Sight

We’ve been together now for 27 years, and I gotta admit, it wasn’t love at first sight. Actually, I guess I don’t really remember the first time I saw you. Or saw you like that. There is the photo of you in the towel after your first shower alone, and then one when Mom caught you on the toilet. Those are both real cute, but I don’t remember you during those days. So it’s not that I didn’t love you, I just didn’t know you. And I’m sorry if you feel that I’ve taken advantage of our time together.

You see, I started to get to know you during the 4th grade. When you buzzed your hair for baseball season and I felt the scar in your head from the 8 stitches you got in that playground accident. And then your growth spurt. When your school clothes stopped fitting, as did your hockey skates. I should thank Dad for bringing us to Fall River for new ones.

Those days were easy. More of a honeymoon phase. Before puberty when nothing could really go wrong. You and your friends barely knew how to use your bodies, or better yet, what they were to be used for.

You didn’t have any acne, muscle, hair. No complications. When all that came is when I started to dislike you. And I showed it in a weird way. Publicly, I’d own your flaws before anyone else could. A defense mechanism. If I make fun of you first, no one else can. No one else can hurt me. No one else can hurt you.

Do you remember when you had eczema? Do you remember you thought it was because you made fun of a girl in 5th grade for having it and thought this was karma? Well, maybe it was. The doctor told you it was from bacteria in your hockey equipment, but that wasn’t enough for your teammates. Or classmates. You embarrassed me. You’d crack on my hands, elbows, shins, shoulders and bleed. Bleed and itch. In front of everyone. Bleed, itch, apply cream, repeat. For 8 years. Why did you do this? I had to hide you at the beach, at school, in the locker room. You were disgusting. But I didn’t betray you the way you betrayed me. Even though I was ashamed, I took care of you. I’d listen to Mom and resist the itch no matter how painful you made it. And before people would make fun of you for your disease, I’d brag about you, show you off, gross people out.

And then, one day it felt like, you just let it go. You healed. Why did you wait so long?

But what you then brought me was disgusting too. Red spots. Hives. Rashes. Whenever I’d sweat. After workouts, a day at the beach, sports, a hot bike ride. You’d get these large red hives on your skin that itched like crazy and you’d keep them for over an hour. You were embarrassing. You couldn’t give me one day at the beach or one end of the school year pool party without bringing these? What the fuck.

And I know you’ll say that you still have these, but it’s different now. I own you differently. I no longer feel the need to hide you. I accept you and show you off in a different way. It’s the first time.

And I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, this isn’t an eye for an eye I’ve just been holding on to it for a while and I need to share it with you. Especially now that I love you so much. Nothing you do or become will embarrass me. I own you now in a way like your my partner. Like you’re…my body.

There is so much about you that no one knows. Thanks for keeping my secrets. Like that molar in the back of your mouth. The one that is sensitive, and hurts when I brush it. Or the tooth on the bottom, a canine I think is what you call it, that collects food and keeps it even when I do brush. Thankfully I only smile with my upper row.

Oh, and the chipped tooth I have. Dead center, no one seems to notice that. Our secret right? I think we’ve done a good job together on that one because I really do love my smile. Not just for how it looks, but for what it says. You smile with your whole face. Your eyes, your cheeks, so many creases and lines. Keep those for me.

And your nose. Why is it so big? Don’t just tell me it’s the Italian in us, My uncle took a DNA test and it says we’re more greek anyway. But I need a favor here too. Don’t tell anyone what you have in you. The long hairs I have to pluck out, or how if I push up on the bottom all the white stuff comes out even though people tell me “Oh, you don’t have whiteheads” — Watch this. I guess a big nose isn’t all that bad though. I can smell better right? Wider noses, bigger nostrils, more lemon, and lavender. If that’s true, then I think we have a deal here. Just protect yourself, I don’t want to see you broken again like that day in France. You’ve been crooked ever since. I think I really do like how big you are nose. Especially in the summer. You catch all the sun and freckles. You look different but you look like you’re living exactly how you’re supposed to. Stay a while.

Speaking of those little hairs in my nose. That’s not the only place you grow them, I just wish you were consistent. You give my head, legs, and arms such thick hair, but my chest is empty. And don’t use this as a distraction from the sides of my head where you’re growing some greys and whites. Everyone says it’s just stress but I’ll tell you right now I’m not scared of them. I don’t mind going grey. Yeah, I don’t want to go grey at 27 or 28 but when you tell me it’s time, just tell me. Don’t go behind my back. We can have that convo any day you’d like.

And if this hair thing is some sort of revenge for how I treated you we can talk about that too. I tried to grow you long and you got so fluffy and frizzy so that I had to blowdry you, that was nice no? Keeping you warm like that? But then I stopped shampooing and conditioning you because the grease, natural of course, would make you easier to work with and I felt prettier. And I know I just buzzed all your hair off. I needed to do it. It was like a shower, I got to start over in a way, but now I’m just waiting for it to grow back. I feel foolish about this in-between stage.

I also feel foolish that I’ve only talked about your aesthetics. Your skin, your smile, your nose, your hair. All the things other people have always liked about you. But they don’t know you like I do. I love all of you.

Like your knees. I feel like we’re just getting to know each other. Now that I can enjoy a long walk, or run with you. You and my legs. You’re a mode of transportation for me. You’ve given me this gift of running. I remember two years ago when I went for a long one for the first time. It was Thanksgiving, it was cold, and when I got home I sat in the shower and hugged you. Kissed you. I loved you so much. Thank you.

Remember when we couldn’t run? You were carrying about 40 more pounds, most of it fat, and everyone thought that because you were an athlete that you were in great shape. I guess they didn’t realize that you can glide on ice. Land was a different story. Just because you were a little bigger, you weren’t necessarily stronger. I remember that day when someone yelled: “Hey Crowley are those your legs or are you riding a chicken?” I cracked a smile but it confirmed everything I thought about myself.

And my butt. Well, I’ve always loved you. I want to keep you and I’m scared that I’ll lose you. They say you’re also just the Italian in me, but you’re all mine. I’m not giving credit to anyone else.

And to my chest, cmon. I could do all the pushups in the world and you still won’t really grow. I’ll bet you! And my penis. You curved hanging appendage that gets excited all the time. I wish sometimes you weren’t so sensitive to touch, but I know you can’t help it. It just feels so good. All chemical. I can live with that. It is embarrassing though.

Body, I know I hung some artwork on you too. On your shin, both arms, both legs. I realize I got them in an attempt to empower myself when I was feeling weak. Rather than harm myself, I colored myself. I think they’ve gotten prettier over time. Well, all but the pirate. But they’re a part of us now. I’ll always feel connected to Elephants. I’ll always explain why it looks like your leg says kale. I’ll use you to tell stories of my mother and our ancestors. And yeah, I always will be a pirate.

All of these physical things, I guess I never really was bothered by in private until others started pointing them out. I wasn’t naive, I had just yet to be exposed to these types of conversations. Harmful conversations. Harmful because, once I heard them, all I could do was compare you and pick you apart. Compare you to what I saw lifeguards looking like, or athletes. If I wanted to be successful, I needed a certain body. You weren’t it. I know now how silly that is, but what if younger kids now still think this? I hope not.

And even when I worked past the comparisons it was the days I absorbed peoples reactions, stares, comments, looks, questions. I just wanted to be normal. What is normal. Normal is without rashes, red spots, random cracks of skin, long hairs, grey hair, bigger muscles, brighter teeth. Prettier.

Now I realize, all of that made me, me. Made us, Us. Human. Animal.

I say I love and admire animals but I don’t sit there picking apart the wrinkles on an elephant, the stripes of a tiger, the dry skin shed by a snake, the dirt on a pig. I just fucking love them and admire how they are who they are completely. Why can’t I just love you that way? For being an animal. Should I stop calling you a human and just call you an animal?

It’s important for me to recognize you’re more than just a physical thing. Hair, skin, muscles. The exterior. What about your blood, your organs, your heart, your mind. I cherish those parts of you.

I love how you breathe. How you track the air through your big nose and can feel it calm your whole body and mind. That same mind that is so powerful, ambitious, creative, crazy, weird and special. I want to protect that. And nurture it. I love how your hands, when faced up and crunched in look ready to hold anything, a child, a hand, your hand, her hand. They are thick but compassionate and caring. Maybe that’s what your heart really looks like. Open hands.

Speaking of your heart, that special organ, I want to tell you how much I care for the emotional pieces of you. How you love. How you hurt. How far you’ve come, from heartbreaks and aches, and that dark day in 2016. And I love how fearless you still are. Keep loving her the way you do.

And mind. how you thirst for more knowledge, how you’ve made the decision that you’re going to live your life confidently. And I know you still get discouraged, but I see the work you do to push through that. 

And finally pain and illness. Thank you. I’m doing my best to treat my body right and avoid you but I’m so thankful for you. You let me know when I need to slow down, or when something isn’t right.

Body, I told you it wasn’t love at first sight and even if it was I wouldn’t have been able to love you. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to treat you, how to give you rest, how to work you harder, how to care for you. I do now, so thank you for sticking with me. I love you so much and I want to get to know you more intimately. I’m excited to continue living, with each other, in each other, together.

Richie. Human.

📹: You can watch Richie read this to letter to himself here.


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