What does it mean to choose our own bodies?
Discover the profound journey of choosing our own bodies in this personal essay. From enduring unexplained pain to navigating intimate relationships, the author reflects on the significance of prioritizing their physical and mental well-being.
What does it mean to choose our own bodies?
What does it mean to choose our own bodies? Does it mean finally getting tests done to figure out an unknown illness? Does it mean breaking up with someone that no longer wants to be intimate with you?
Our bodies should not be vehicles for our minds, but instead one with them. This is what is going through my mind as I lay on my back under an x-ray machine. My pants are pulled down to my knees and my legs are shaking against the cold table. I hope that the thin white hospital sheet hides this from the technician. She asks me why I am getting x-rays today, so I tell her it is for a sharp pain in my lower left abdomen.
“Did the pain start up recently?” she asks.
“Actually, I’ve been dealing with this pain for 6 years.” She looks disconcerted.
“Yeah, I probably should have gotten this checked out earlier.”
I have grown accustomed to ignoring my body, or perhaps my suffering, if this body is supposed to be one with my mind.
“Any chance that you are pregnant?” she asks. I almost laugh.
“No, I’m actually on my period.”
As the technician walks behind the glass to take a picture, I can’t help but notice how long I have deprived my body of the help it needs. My body has needs. Perhaps that is what I should have said on that unusual Sunday afternoon.
It felt like a normal Sunday: I had just gotten home from work and showered. My boyfriend, Matt, was on his way to my house to pick me up. I stood in the living room with my mother as she rearranged her Boyds Bears on her new entertainment center.
“Do you want any help?” I asked.
“Nope. I know exactly how I want it to be.”
I watched her as she fervently moved things around the living room ‒ a mess at first glance, but she knew what she wanted.
Soon enough Matt arrived, and in the cup holder of his car was Starbucks’ famous (and my favorite) Pink Drink.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“I just wanted to get it for you.”
We drove down the road towards Alliance, but before we reached the four-way stop, he asked, “Hey, where is that church with the parking lot you would always ride your bike in?”
“At the end of my grandpa’s road. Why?”
“I just want to talk.”
My heart pounded. I just want to talk. What did he want to talk about? Why did we have to go to the church to talk?
I sipped my drink until we pulled into the parking lot. As he turned off the car, his hands were shaking. I set my drink down and held my left side. I turned towards Matt: his face was red and his eyes were watering.
“Matt, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t keep doing what we do behind closed doors.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, but then realized what he was talking about. “Oh.”
As Matt explained, he reached over to touch my neck. Instead of comforting me, he unknowingly began to tug on my hood.
“The last time we did it, I felt God telling me that this was the last chance, and if we did it again, I wasn’t going to see Heaven.”
What should I have said? I’m sorry that I want intimacy in a relationship. I’m sorry that I’m holding you back from heaven. Thinking back now, I don’t know if there really was a right thing to say. He was clearly nervous and upset, so much so that he had no idea that he was choking me.
“Matt, you’re choking me with my hood.”
He let go, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry. Please don’t be angry with me.”
The technician comes back to the table and tells me that she needs to take another picture; the first one didn’t come out clear. I explain that this happens every time I have x-rays done due to my unaligned hips. Minutes before I was on the table, she had asked if I was limping. I told her yes, but that is because my left leg is weaker and shorter than my right. Now she looks at me with a sorrowful look, just a few of my ailments present to her.
The technician gets the picture on the second try: a new record compared to the last time I had x-rays taken. She turns around so that I can stand and pull my pants up. We walk to the waiting room where my mother sits.
“That was quick. Did it go well?” my mom asks as she puts on her coat.
“Actually, yes. She got the picture on the second try. And when she asked me if I was pregnant, I got to tell her the wonderful news that I’m currently on my period.”
“Well, I would hope so,” my mother replies.
“If we do break up, promise it is not because of this.” Matt asked this of me that day in the church parking lot. I made that promise knowing it was a lie.
When I got home later that day, I wrote about it. No matter how much I wrote, I could not figure out the right thing to do. I could not make a good decision for my body. It had always been for the sake of peace of mind ‒ Matt’s mind ‒ that I did not choose my body over him.
As I walk out of the hospital with my mother, I plan to make a phone call. A phone call I have been avoiding for too long. As we hop in the truck and my mother turns on the heat, I decide that it is now or never: if I am going to do it, I might as well do it now.
“What days are best for you, Mom?” I ask.
“Fridays work for me,” she replies.
I look at my calendar and decide which Friday is best: the next step to answers ‒ and unification with my body ‒ is an ultrasound.
"To choose our own bodies is to reclaim our sovereignty, honoring the vessel that carries our dreams, desires, and unyielding spirit."
Mariah Lanzer, the author of "What Does it mean to choose our own bodies?," is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at Kent State University in Ohio. She loves to write creative nonfiction, drinks too much coffee, and goes on book-shopping sprees.