A belated Valentine to the body
My Valentine, my body, my selfMARALYN LOIS POLAK
I once knew someone who eventually became a swami. That is, he went to India and returned a certified holy man.
“We are not our bodies,” this swami would intone in his vaguely omniscient, prescient way.
In those days I didn’t really understand what that meant. Wasn’t there actually a book back then entitled Our Bodies, Ourselves?
We were once healthy young animals, sleek and supple. We had energy. We had plans. We had hopes. We had dreams. Exercise was ecstasy. Sex was as natural to us as eating and sleeping and breathing. Politics was not.
We assumed we’d live forever. We believed doctors and hospitals were silly. We believed drugs were bad, unless they were good. We believed growing old entailed endless complaining.
We never thought about betrayals of the body. We couldn’t imagine wrinkles. Or sags. Or bags. Or lines. Or pouches. Or plastic surgery. Or vacations. Or major illness. Or even divorce.
We loved our cats or our dogs or our cars, as if they too would live forever. Little did we know.
Overnight, we grew up. We “matured.” We met friends of friends with AIDS. Someone knew someone who died of cancer.
Someone else knew someone who had a heart attack. Even though they ran, played tennis, took vitamins. Someone else went to the doctor for what they thought was a persistent cold and got a quadruple bypass instead. Go figure.
Addicted to Blockbuster
We thickened our skin and strengthened our resolve. We grew terrified that something would happen to us or anyone we cared about. But we tried not to worry. We watched too much TV, grew addicted to Blockbuster or NetFlix, over-ate, drank to excess, medicated ourselves with this pill or that for this mood or that.
We tried to detach. We tried not to feel. We preferred not to think. We wanted to “chill.”
Maybe we fell in love with someone who got sick. They had tests. They had treatments. They had procedures. They had operations. Maybe they became chronically ill. But since we weren’t married, no one we knew bothered to be really sympathetic or supportive, because unless you were a legally married couple, your unsanctioned relationship obviously didn’t count, right? How could you grieve if you weren’t an actual widow or widower?
Like an old museum
Think of a new house. In the beginning, everything’s perfect. New roof, new furnace, new appliances. The years pass, bringing cracks, leaks, floods. Well, you can still sell a house, as is, even make a profit on it.