So uh, I’ve been doing a lot of rope lately, which isn’t altogether surprising. When I get something stuck in my teeth, I tend to go hard at it for a while until I either integrate it into my life or let it drop off (guess which direction this one is going?).
Doing a lot of rope brings up body image stuff for me. I am very aware that I tend toward inversions because they smooth and flatten out my stomach. I see pictures and think, “Ugh, that would be so good if only my stomach wasn’t rolling in on itself.” I tie wraps around my legs and cringe at the skin bulging out. I actively try not to count how many extensions a sweetheart has to use to get me in a TK, or think about how hard I must be to lift.
I spent time the other day doing rope with three people dear to my heart, all of whom are extraordinarily attractive by conventional standards. And ooof, it takes work sometimes to hold my own, even in that space with those people that I love and trust to love me in return, who have seen me in various stages of dressed/undressed configurations and know- probably better than I do- what my body looks like. But god, it’s hard not to watch them and want to wrap myself up in a potato sack to hide every curve and roll and fold that none of them seem to exhibit, ever.
It’s hard not to compare myself to other people. I’m not a tiny, petite person. I’m not the toughest, strongest rope bottom. I’m not a hardcore masochist. I’m not particularly photogenic unless you happen to catch me when I’m not paying attention. It’s hard to not be those things, even though I recognize that I don’t even know what those things mean; they’re all subjective. I know how many pictures it takes to get that one really beautiful, graceful picture, even for people who are very good at understanding what their bodies look like- and I am far from that.
Starting this journey of self-tying has been really interesting because I feel stronger than I have ever felt before. I see pictures of myself and I look strong. Out of context, it seems strange that I worry about these things.
But I do.
It’s not that I want to be someone other than me; it’s that I have an image in my head of what I think “me” should look like, and it doesn’t quite match up with what I actually look like. Almost conversely, though, the image I have in my head of what I think I look like also doesn’t match the image of what I actually look like, so there’s a lot of confusion between my brain and my eyes when I see pictures of myself.
There is a lot of disconnect here. And doing so much rope- particularly self tying- forces me to confront these things again. Forces me to face what it takes to get me off the ground (I’m always surprised that it’s easier than what I think it’s going to be). Forces me to face the rolls and folds of my skin. These things are hard- as someone with a history of managing weight issues through addiction, there is a lot bundled up in these things.
It’s hard, but I keep doing it anyway because every time I see a new picture of myself, I see myself differently. One of the things I love about getting tied is the ability to let go of what my body looks like. However I’m arranged, however I’m positioned, someone else is doing it. I can let go of that tension between myself and my body because I am not in control of my own body placement.
Self tying is different. I knew I wouldn’t get that particular thing out of self-tying; what I didn’t expect was getting this, this new way of interacting with myself and my body and what I look like and how I feel. I didn’t expect to feel strong. I didn’t expect to look strong. I expected I would see myself looking clumsy, awkward, kind of derpy, cursing the rolls and folds. And yeah, those pictures exist. But I have to reexamine the ones where I look so vastly different than I expect to look.
I still really like getting tied. I still really like letting go and letting someone else arrange and position my body in ways I either can’t or wouldn’t think to put myself in. But this…this is different. This is claiming new ways of seeing myself, as myself. This is learning what shapes my body makes and how it holds them and where I can push. This is challenging my own notions of what my body can do, what it looks like, how to create the images of myself that I want to create. Here, I stop being the product of someone else’s creation and become a figure of my own imagination.
I get to see and learn what my body does when I move it in certain ways. It still surprises me how certain shifts translate into different shapes, but I’m beginning to learn, which means I’m beginning to have a more accurate objective understanding of my body.
In my life, I have never had anything approaching an accurate, objective perspective of my body.
Do I still curse the rolls and folds in my stomach? Sure. Do I still wish, sometimes, I had the kind of body that people jumped at the opportunity to tie? Sort of, but in truth… if I had that, I don’t know that I would have made the leap and pushed myself to learn to tie, and I could not have learned these lessons in someone else’s rope. Do I have a long way to go? Sure, but I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold somewhere and I am allowing something outside of analytical language to guide my hands. Each time I tie, it gets a little easier. Each time I tie, I learn something new about the capacities of my body. Each time I tie, I get a little closer to seeing myself more honestly than I have ever seen myself before.
And that? That alone makes the frustration and discomfort totally worth it.