How I perceived my body growing up has been pretty interesting. I have never thought much about my body and my body shape other than through the aspect of staying in shape. After reading excepts from Sara Grogan’s Body Image it made me think about my body a little differently. Growing up I never idolized individuals and wished I had a body like theirs. When I was an adolescent I knew that everybody has a different body, and we all look at our bodies differently. I am a semi-professional surfer and was a competitive diver/swimmer/soccer player growing up. Growing up playing so many sports I look at my body currently as a product due to years of sports. I have always looked at my body in two different ways my in-season/off-season viewpoints. In-season because when I am in season my body is more toned due to me practicing and training every day. This is a stark contrast to my off-season mode where I am practicing less and not following my diet as strictly as I should. Lately I have looked at my body and see what years of sports injuries have done to it. Wondering if my reckless nature of thinking I was indestructible when I was younger has led to my body to be where it is now. I have scars and my body isn’t perfectly level because of abuse I have put on my body.
A part in the book that intrigues me was when I began to think about it through the aspect of my ethnicity and race. She talked about the fetishes and fascination with minority bodies by the white majority (159). I remember at 16 having competitors at competitions tell me I am ultra-intimidating because of the way my body looks when I am walking up to the diving board or on the soccer field. To this day I still do use my body size and my muscles as a tool of intimidation in competitions. Thinking about how I always received praises from everybody from athletes, to coaches, to even parents of my competitors was because they looked at me as a fetish. Almost as if their internal monologue is; “look at those muscular legs and broad shoulders if only my kid could look at that,” or “I would kill for an athlete who’s an ideal physical specimen to be on my team.” So, to think it was because they looked at me almost as a stud used in breeding has me thinking about how people view my body now.
Grogan discussed the aspect of creating your body to fit within a body type for sexual attractiveness (184). I never crafted my body to be sexually attractive but instead to be the perfect piece of equipment. Yes, I said I use my body as a piece of equipment. I didn’t create my body for sexual prowess but as a piece of equipment used to help me win my next competition. In professional surfing the surfboard your buy or choose is based around a ton of parameters from the style of wave, way you surf, down to the most important your body. My surfboards are shaped down to 1/8th an inch in certain parts of the board and most surfboards also include the liters per volume. Every surfer has a magic number they try to stay under when it comes to these parameters. If a professional surfer gains too much weight, then their magic formula is thrown out the window and it can affect their surfing completely. They will have to change everything to the thickness/length of their surfboards down to their volume. This messes everything up and it can cost them thousands of dollars in new boards. So as a surfer I try to stay within a weight I am happy with, so I don’t have to spend thousands in replacing all my boards and dramatically alter my approach to my surfing style.
In conclusion yes, I perceive my body a little different than most. Never have I thought about how I perceived my body from childhood to adulthood and if my peers had the same views as me. After reading Body Image I definitely have come to the realization that I view my body differently than most. I wonder if my views will change as I grow older and my abilities as an athlete change as well.
DT is a graduate student at Old Dominion University’s Institute for the Humanities. He earned his BA in English with an Emphasis in Journalism from Old Dominion. He is most interested with topics relating to sexuality, sex, and gender especially how these topics are discussed and viewed in various cultures and classes around the world.