Apparently, someone somewhere on the Internet recently criticized the actor Jason Momoa for having a “dad bod.” First, I did not know there was a such a thing as a dad bod, though now that I do, I will try only to picture a shirtless Momoa when I hear the term used. Second, some people have pointed out that this is yet another example of what is called body shaming. If so, it’s a particularly pernicious expression of it, suggesting as it does that no matter how perfect a specimen of a man or woman you might be, you will never be free from the threat of someone believing there is something unattractive about your body.
Though third, ask yourself if you’re truly surprised by this. Have you ever looked in the mirror and not liked what you’ve seen? I certainly have, and I was an athlete as a young man and have continued to exercise all my life. Doesn’t matter. There’s a roll here and there where there didn’t use to be. I just interviewed two authors, both nice-looking men in my opinion, and one began our conversation began by complaining about the wrinkles around his eyes and the other how completely gray his hair had become. It was exhausting.
Of course, I’ve also looked in the mirror and liked what I’ve seen. This is slightly better than not liking what I see, but not much. When I like what I see, I’m really only imagining what I believe others will think about me and my body. This is the shallowest and most unstable foundation for my confidence and wellbeing. People can think absolutely anything at all, and they will.
I am only happy with my body when I’m using it and not thinking about what anyone else sees when they look at it. When I’m using it, I usually pay attention to how it feels. Is it stiff or loose? Strong or weak? Hungry, full, or stuffed? The body is fantastically responsive and informative. If I listen to it, that body lets me know immediately if I’m feeding it more than it needs, if I’m straining it, if it’s too warm or cold.
For this reason, I love my body. It’s very useful and cooperative. I stop loving it, however, the moment I think I am that body. No matter how much I weigh, no matter how full my head of hair, no matter how defined my biceps, my body will always be imperfect if only because it can only ever be in one form at one time. I can only be one height, one color, one weight. In this way, I sympathize with those people who identify as gender fluid, trying as they are to shake free from the body’s ineluctable limitations.
The body will always be limited, but I am not. I am what moves the body, sees the body, and thinks about the body. I am also what will be left when the body is kaput. I cannot prove this, of course, I can only know it, which may seem contradictory. Nonetheless, I always feel a little ashamed when I start believing I am my body, start identifying with it, whatever its current shape. Its shape will change but my value will not, who I am will not. In fact, my jobs may change, what I write may change, and where I live may change, but who I am will remain the same. I am not my body any more than my than I am my job or my books or my home city.
So maybe everyone’s a little ashamed of their bodies, not because they’re too big or too small, but only for the same reason we feel ashamed whenever we’re caught pretending to be someone we’re not. Somewhere in us we all know what we really are, whether we accept it or not
Somewhere in us there is an awareness that has no name or shape, only a desire to connect with that same awareness pulsing ceaselessly in all the other bodies.
What’s Next? Talk with others. Take action.
We are proud of our SOCIAL INTEREST GROUPS—WEEKLY PHONE CALLS to discuss, gain insights, build communities— and help solve some of the most difficult challenges the world has today. Calls are for Members Only (although you can join the first call for free). Not yet a member of The Good Men Project? Join below!
Join the Conscious Intersectionality FACEBOOK GROUP here. Includes our new call series on Human Rights.
Join The Good Men Project Community
All levels get to view The Good Men Project site AD-FREE.
Register New Account
Please note: If you are already a writer/contributor at The Good Men Project, log in here before registering. (Request a new password if needed).
ANNUAL PLATINUM membership ($50 per year) includes:
1. AN ALL ACCESS PASS — Join ANY and ALL of our weekly calls, Social Interest Groups, classes, workshops, and private Facebook groups. We have at least one group phone call or online class every day of the week.
2. See the website with no ads when logged in!
3. MEMBER commenting badge.
ANNUAL GOLD membership ($25 per year) includes all the benefits above — but only ONE Weekly Social Interest Group and ONE class.
ANNUAL BRONZE membership ($12 per year) is great if you are not ready to join the full conversation but want to support our mission anyway. You’ll still get a BRONZE commenting badge, and you can pop into any of our weekly Friday Calls with the Publisher when you have time. This is for people who believe—like we do—that this conversation about men and changing roles and goodness in the 21st century is one of the most important conversations you can have today.
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
Photo courtesy Shutterstock .