As my roommate and I sat in front of our modestly sized TV scrolling through Netflix, we exchanged the same non-verbal sentiment: numbness, by way of deep unenthusiasm. Every title we clicked through seemed underwhelming and incompatible with the evening’s vibe. New Girl? No, we’ve re-watched it too many times. Unorthodox? Are we in the mental headspace for that?
We were about to give up when we stumbled upon The Goop Lab, a documentary series about the somewhat outlandish lifestyle and wellness company Goop, created by actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
I didn’t know much about the short series or company; my only sources of knowledge were headlines like “Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina candle is back in stock” and “Goop’s Infamous Yoni Egg Cost the Company $145,000”. Needless to say, I thought Goop and The Goop Lab was for rich white people seeking new rich white people’s products and ideologies.
Nevertheless, in the name of boredom, we decided to give it a shot. Though each episode title was both enigmatic and exciting, one episode jumped out to us immediately: episode 3 entitled “The Pleasure is Ours”. Featuring sex educator Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, the episode delves into female pleasure, from “real vulvas to true vulnerability”.
Okay, Gwyneth, you got us. As 20 something women, privileged enough to grow into womanhood in a time of openness and access to real sex education, we want to learn about our bodies, and how to find pleasure with others and (most importantly) ourselves.
I had no idea how much I had to learn, and how this episode would mark a turning point in my relationship with my body.
Since social distancing, I’ve picked up a dangerous habit: negatively obsessing over my body. Every day my mind feverishly looks for something to fixate on, to satisfy a discomfort with the foreignness of this new way of life. Looking in the mirror, I poke and prod my love handles and other miscellaneous fat rolls. Walking down the street, I wince at my reflection in car windows, scowling at how my thighs jiggle as I move. Attacking my body is always the easiest obsession. It’s a never-ending project I’ve been attempting to micromanage for a very long time.
It started at 13. I was losing weight rapidly, constantly thirsty, and always fatigued. When I eventually went to the doctor, he immediately deduced what was going on. A blood sugar level reading later confirmed his prediction. I was diabetic.
In a flash, my life went from volleyball tryouts and slumber parties to calorie counting and injection techniques. Doctors became my collection of broken records, drilling into my head the severity of diabetes, and how it can compromise every organ in my body. My body quickly became a wild card in my life. Finding a way to control my well being felt like an insurmountable task, one I was bound to lose.
Fear was and continues to be the foundation of my relationship with my body. I’m terrified of gaining weight. I’m terrified of losing weight. I’m terrified that one day my body will betray me… irrevocably.
In times of stillness, when life is void of its cheap thrills and simple pleasures, I think about this disconnection in my life. I feel a great deal of shame for not feeling one with my body, and for letting that disconnection ease making no-so-healthy choices.
Watching Betty Dodson, Carlin Ross, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Goop’s chief content officer Elise Loehnen tackle the shame surrounding the female body head-on, showing real women, naked, I was in awe. I was in awe of what I was seeing on screen, but I was more surprised by how it made me feel. I felt humbled and freed.
The Goop Lab reminded me that my fear isn’t unique. We all feel some sort of disconnect between ourselves and our bodies. We’ve all felt ashamed of the nuanced repercussions that the misalignment of soul and body inspires. But that shame and separation are okay. When we see and hear the shame, fear, and disconnection, we’ll find camaraderie and ultimately, the truth.
**This post is dedicated to my roommate, who constantly challenges me to embody, dissect and navigate the ever-evolving complexities of modern-day womanhood. It’s through friendships of this caliber, forgiveness, and a lot of laughter, in which we understand the beauty of this existence.