Secrets from With/out Pretend: Living In A Body
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February 2019

Living in a Body

"We get dressed now like we are in love. We don’t need mirrors anymore, or the sides of the old shiny buildings, or the placid lake, to see what is good. Mirrors are for amateurs, for people from the old tragic mirror era. We can use our bodies to feel what’s happening."

— Margaux Williamson, How to Dress in Our New World (from Women in Clothes)

What is it like to live in your body? How does your body feel first thing in the morning, when you're madly in love, or when you’re about to cry? How does it look in a mirror? How does it look when there are no mirrors around?

Do you remember how you felt about your body as a young child, how you moved through the world, what your body felt like when it was tired, cared for, hungry, in pain, excited, nervous, safe? Is it different from, or the same as, the way you feel about it now?

How do you measure the "success" of your body? Does your body access pleasure easily? What’s the hardest thing your body has ever accomplished? In which moments is your body a friend? An enemy?

"Body" is a theme that has followed me, and maybe haunted me, all of my life. As long as I can remember, I’ve never felt at home in my body — it has always felt like a cumbersome flesh suitcase I have to lug around with me everywhere I go. I take it through the motions of a "regular" human existence: wash it, dress it, feed it, move it around, put it to bed. And even though, from an objective viewpoint, there is nothing actually wrong with my body, it has always felt wrong, defective, bad.

I do not want to be the kind of woman who thinks about the “goodness” or “badness” of my body — how trite! I’d rather not spend any time or energy whatsoever judging the way pants sit on my waist, or what an outfit will look like when I sit down (will it bunch or pull or tighten to become unflattering?). I wish so much that I could eat a meal without thinking about whether it was the “right” thing or the “wrong” thing to put into my body; if I should be scolded by some higher authority for eating too many meals involving carbs and melted cheese in the same week. 

I’ve done everything I can think of to exorcize my body demons. A few years ago I stopped reading fashion magazines. A few months ago I unfollowed a woman on Instagram who posted about her seven-day melon cleanse. I have limited the number of people in my life who I will endure talk of food regimes, losing or gaining weight, exercise routines, or any kind of body-related goals — because while those people can have pure intentions, these kinds of conversations often leave me feeling depressed for days afterward.

My January was filled with new kinds of conversations about bodies. Ameema Saeed wrote beautifully about living in a body that is Brown, Fat, and often in pain, for The Vault, and it's one of the most downloaded stories we've published so far. We hosted Unruly Bodies for a second time on January 26 and sold out the 200-person venue in four days. These amazing storytellers were able to tell the very moving and often difficult stories of their bodies and I found myself wishing I knew how to tell the story of my body, too. She is still a stranger to me: like a shadow of my Self, always present but never someone I can reach out and touch. 

As I send this note off to you, our newest print collection called “On Pleasure” is in layout and will officially launch on February 26. Does it seem counter-intuitive that I would want to make a publication about pleasure, a feeling that, arguably, happens in the body, without even knowing, or liking, my own? Maybe that’s why I believe so strongly in publishing stories like Ameema’s and inviting women to the stage. Sentence by sentence, publication after publication, I am getting closer to the answers I have been seeking. I am collecting the wisdom of writers and artists I admire, replacing old thoughts with new ones, clenching the lessons of others like they are maps to buried treasure.

Margaux Williamson predicts a "new world" in which mirrors are for amateurs and our bodies can feel what's happening. Perhaps I can start to imagine a future in which I will get dressed like I can't wait to be noticed, move in my body like a child at play, or make love with the full presence of my spirit, my flesh merely a joyful recipient of the kind of pleasure which comes from deep within.   



p.s. This past week was National Eating Disorder Week (Feb 1 - 7) and I’ll be donating 20% of all Vault memberships purchased Feb 1 through Feb 11 to Sheena’s Place. If you've been waiting to subscribe, please consider supporting us now.

Eating Disorders affect people of all genders, sexual orientations, ages, socioeconomic class, abilities, races, and ethnic backgrounds. This week is a time to escalate awareness of the impact of Eating Disorders, the dangerous stereotypes and myths, and the supports available for people living with or affected by them. 

Give the gift of beautifully illustrated stories! We've packaged up a bundle of our most popular digital stories, designed especially to give as a gift to the reader in your life. 
New in The Vault
This Body, My Body
Written by Ameema Saeed, Illustration by Paola Saliby
A story about living in a body. 

More manifesto than memoir, This Body, My Body reads like a letter Ameema is writing to herself, one of the many steps in her journey to come to terms with her body, for all its glories and hurdles; and with her pain, for all it has taught her about perseverance, wishing, coping, and healing.

Join The Vault to get this story & other goodies sent to you monthly. 
New artwork by Leia Bryans for
Unruly Bodies
For those who couldn't make it to Unruly Bodies on January 26, we're excited to share this new, commissioned artwork for the event series.

For the new poster, we worked with Leia Bryans, an artist based in Toronto. After being diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 12, Leia understands what it means to live in an "Unruly Body." We sold risograph prints of this poster at our event and donated 100% of the sales to The 519 Trans Youth Mentorship Program.

If you're in the Toronto area and interested in speaking at one of our events, you can apply here.
Ameema Saeed recommends
The Body Is Not an Apology
by Sonya Renee Taylor

If you really connected with This Body, My Body, or you’re just hungry to read more about people’s tumultuous relationships with their unruly, complicated bodies, we put together a list of books and articles you may resonate with, curated by the author of this month's featured story. 

First on Ameema's list is this book by Sonya Renee Taylor. The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by violent systems of oppression. Read the full list here for more recommendations.
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