The courage it takes to share your story might be the very thing someone else needs to open their heart to hope
BY GILLIAN FORTIER
I love Christmas. I love the lights hung up everywhere. I love the hunt for the perfect, most conical tree. I love the 24/7 Christmas music – except for those 3 particular songs that include teeth, Grandma, and shoes. Those, I skip. And I love the Christmas cookies.
For the past four years, one of my best friends has hosted a Christmas cookie exchange. Several of us, our moms, our sisters, and our grandmas get together and bake an assortment of cookies of which Alton Brown would be proud (Okay, a girl can dream about her baking prowess, but anyway).
One thing I’ve always been thankful for in this particular festivity with this particular group of people, however, is how little body-shaming occurs. So often, it seems, in big groups of people who are eating together, conversation quickly deteriorates from the usual small talk and chatter and general catching up with one another to body shaming and guilt. One off-hand comment about the “holiday weight” or how the cookies are going to go “straight to my thighs/butt/stomach/whatever body part here” can spiral a whole room down the path of self-deprecation, in the least humorous way.
Cookies are not “bad”. Cookies are made out of flour and sugar and eggs and baking powder. “Bad” is a morality. Flour has no moral stance. Flour just is. Cookies just are. Cookies are not “bad”, and therefore, you are not “being so bad” if you eat a cookie. You are eating – that is all.
So at this party, where conversation slides from horrid professors to boyfriends and girlfriends to the hunt for housing to old friends, but never to body shaming or guilt tripping, I am grateful. I’m sure other people are too. Because really, who likes it? Who feels better about themself after listing off every “imperfect” body part? Who feels more motivated when they talk about what they have to do to “earn” or “make up for” those cookies? Who feels more at ease when everyone around them seems to do nothing but hate themselves?
Not me, that’s for sure.
In most great literary traditions, eating together is an act of communion. A meal among friends is an expression of love; a drink between foes can be a truce, a peace offering. So why is it that in real life, celebrations with food are, instead of celebrations, cesspools for spite towards ourselves?
We do not deserve the abuse we spew at our food and at our bodies.
The holiday season – whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, Kwanzaa or Boxing Day, New Year’s or the Winter Solstice – should be about love. Forgiveness. Generosity. Peace. This year, let’s keep the conversation in those kindnesses – even, and especially, concerning our bodies.