I’ve been thinking about bellies and mine’s recent expansion. In the year-plus since I moved to Belgium, the baggy pants have become snug. There’s nothing permanent about my belly’s current contours, though they could persist. And though not the only ‘site’ of growth over these months, the belly is most striking to me, its prominence heightened by certain waistline cuts.
What I’ve been thinking about bellies is how they are ‘sites’ of shame for too many women, including myself. Even before mine’s recent expansion, I wasn’t keen on its complete exposure. There was a short period when I did wear two-piece bathing suits, but the lower half always had a shortish or skirtish quality, very apt at concealing The Bulge.
These memories take me back to high school when The Shame extended more widely, in a refusal to ‘show’ anything around my middle. This meant a wardrobe of layers, shirts that ‘puffed’ over or hung below my waist (often also covering my butt). It took years to claim my abdomen as my own by abandoning baggy-sac combinations, seeing the habit for what it was: hiding.
Recently while reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, I learned about the belly goddess Baubo. She comes across the mother goddess Demeter, who’s full of grief and worn out from an unsuccessful search to find her daughter goddess Persephone. (Aside: Persephone’s been kidnapped by the underworld god Hades.) Baubo brings belly laughter to the grieving mother and helps in the search. Eventually the stolen daughter is restored to Demeter.
And what is Baubo’s likeness in this story? “The dancing female was very magical indeed, for she had no head whatsoever, and her nipples were her eyes and her vulva was her mouth.” What a portrait! As I ponder my belly’s increase in a year’s time – the result of too little physical activity (lack of connection with the body) and overindulgence of food (undernourishment in emotional-spiritual life) – I discover an opportunity: to embrace my flesh and resist the old urge to cover up curves.
So I’m celebrating myself and the belly goddess Baubo by publishing a photograph. Women, I invite you to take snapshots of your own bellies to celebrate the goddess in you! It’s my desire to create a montage of anonymous bellies. If you’d like to be a part of the celebration, email your belly shot to mdh[at]deyofthephoenix.com.