Jennifer Jade Merrihue
THE DANGER ZONE
I was so wrong about my body.
I was wrong for years.
Today my mission is to post a picture of something I call: The Danger Zone.
From my chin to mid-thighs. I don’t label it that because I don’t think she’s beautiful. I label it that because that part of me that feels dangerous. Feels sexual. Feels risky.
If you know me, you know I prefer to be in the softest clothing possible, big billowing sweaters and wooly socks. Wrapped and hidden in my soft, safe, cave of clothing. Even if it’s hot.
But it’s high 90’s in LA right now and it’s no longer serving me that I do this. Not as a Sex and Relationship coach, not as an educator, not as a human.
So I’ve enrolled my coach, a male, into accountability. For me to stop disassociating, avoiding this part of myself as it subtly gets in the way of so many things. And to post a picture of said danger zone, for all of you to see.
So first, I have to point out that I gained 20 lbs 5 years ago, in all my womanly body parts. I got off the pill for the first time in a decade for a major surgery and committed not to go back on it after seeing the hormonal destruction it had caused.
At first, it was intense to be thicker so quickly. To go from lean, fit, yoga body - to WOMAN body. In the span of a month.
I had been used to my lanky, small, teenager-esque body. I knew how to wear it and hide in it. It was small enough to fit in tiny places. To dissolve into the background or Irish exit.
I had wanted a bigger butt but assumed I couldn’t get one because I’m both Latin and Russian and the Russian seemed to be winning the butt wars of my genetics.
And now, just like that, I had one. And it came with thighs. I had never much thought about thighs. Except that they needed a space in-between or something foolish I read in cosmo somewhere.
Truth is when I came into my thick curvy body:
I was shy of my body around my family
Shy of my body around friends partners or boyfriends
Shy of my body around strangers
Shy of my body around strange men
Shy of my body around some friends
My body felt and feels wrong. Felt too womanly. Pornographic. Too much.
How today's picture challenge came about:
The other day I was in a session with my coach, the brilliant Jordan Gray and as salted drops of sweat trickled down my back I was confronted with not wanting to take my sweater off in this professional setting.
I was wearing a tight athletic top underneath. One that felt to me, inappropriate. Would I wear it to yoga? All the time. Did is show literally any extravagant genitals? No. Just a little cleavage dip.
And here I was in the most ridiculous scenario.
I was in front of the man I hired to help me navigate any and all ridiculous roadblocks that I might have lurking in the corners of my mind. And the roadblock is a sweater.
Sweat dripping down my body. Hard to concentrate. With a little gremlin in my mind saying “Don’t do it! Don’t take off the sweater!!!! He’ll think things. He’ll assume you want something!! You might somehow make him uncomfortable! His girlfriend might assume things and feel uncomfortable!”
The most RIDICULOUS narrative. Finally, I could not take it. As the minutes ticked by and my concentration floundered around me I admitted it, through my shame of even having this issue, I blurted it out to him. But to my surprise, it came out more like me asking permission. Permission? Consent? God knows, but it felt icky in my body- like existing was somehow wrong.
Why the hell would this man care.
He’s seen it all before.
He’s a sex and relationship COACH. And I’m here hotboxing in a sweater. Protecting him from my sexuality???? My body???
He asked me, “Who is your body for?”
And my mouth parted in shock.
Logically I knew the answer was me.
But internally, in my mind, the thing running my program- the answer was a complex web. It’s for my partners, my business, to attract friends, love, life, safety, interest. It’s for everything else. But not for me. Not for my comfort. Not for my pleasure or peace. It’s there to serve. To workout. To keep me active and running.
So I started looking. Was it only the DD’s that spelled out Danger to me?
Maybe it wasn’t all their fault?
Maybe it’s the amount of porn I watched in my youth, maybe it’s the fact that a number of pushy boys have said that the color of my underwear or bra was what tipped them off that I “wanted some”, when in fact it was laundry day and my lacy, special underwear was all that was left available.
Maybe it’s the sexualization of everything we sell in this country. OR the religious undertones that my sexual body is a sin.
Maybe it’s all the rapes I’ve heard about on the news, in shows, from other women, or experienced myself that makes me feel unsure about what my body is communicating.
Maybe it’s the idea that if I just dress less invitingly I’ll be less of a target. Insinuating that my body is dangerous and hinting that I can somehow control a predator by showing less of myself.
Maybe it was the stalker I had who could see me in my home and sexualize me, the partnerships that didn’t respect what I was going through to pause their demands on my body, the unwritten laws about pleasing your man to be a good woman that I’m still not sure where I picked up.
Maybe it was the friends in college who looked at my soft shirts dripping off my shoulder and hiding my body with disgust, friends who insisted I put my body in borrowed tiny tight dresses and heels*.
(*Bless them they were just loving on my body in a way I could not- by showing it).
This list of maybe’s is so long.
Diluted down, it’s the message that the clothes I feel good in aren’t sexual enough, but that my body without clothes is TOO sexual and dangerous.
So today, I begin to change that. By inviting innocence into this equation to balance the shame I’ve been collecting like bricks.
I post these pictures to say a few things. My body is innocent. I do not post it naked to try and get anything from anyone. I post it so that I can practice understanding that it is not in itself a sexual object or dangerous. That this practice and process is for me.
I no longer want to hide my body and believe it to be safer that way. Because then, with no help from anyone else, I’m the one that is telling my body it’s too sexual, too dangerous, too wrong, too much... I am the one shaming it. On a daily basis. I am the one.
So today is I hope a first of many rebellions against pants.
I hope its a first of many days …
Where creative inspiration can hit in visual poetry and I won’t shy away from showing you a picture with my body as its subject.
Today is a day of many. Where I can look at the entirety of myself with innocence first, and exist in freedom to share, to express. Free of the dangers, the what-ifs, the insinuations.
Free and naked. As it should be.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your time. If you or anyone you know is struggling with issues of the body, love, acceptance, reach out- to me, to each other, but don’t go it alone! We’re in this together.
I have a few spaces for 1-1 coaching sessions opening up. If you feel a pull or interest feel free to reach out with questions, it’s an honor to serve.
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