“Attention: People With Body Parts”

Image by Tails Williams

By Melissa A. Fabello

“I sit on the freckled sidewalk miles and years later. You bend in the humid air, bowing down to the grass mingling between the cracks. You, like the grass, would always come back. Through the cracks, through the scar tissue of my razor-cut legs. I trace my fingertips through your misplaced feathers, early mornings, and imperfections. Palms pressed into you like a lover that carves into a tree’s bark. Anyone could speculate with distance, but we know that your endless touch means something else, something more.

It means you and I have been close.

Closer than anyone else…”

Although this comes off as a letter to a lost love, an outpouring of the soul, perhaps after the drudging up of a bittersweet memory, it’s not. It’s actually much more personal than that. The above is an excerpt from a letter to a remarkable part of the author’s body.  It’s a letter to her leg hair. And she, Lexie Bean, has a lot more where that came from – not just written by her, but from forty-two other people who, too, have something to say to their bodies.

Attention: People with Body Parts – a collection of over fifty stories detailing the feelings that people have regarding their daily interactions with their physical selves – started as a way for the editor, Lexie, to concretely reflect on the relationship between herself and the world around her.

“A convergence of my ongoing battle with an eating disorder and my experience of womanhood, queerness, and whiteness in America,” Lexie writes that the project originally “developed from my desire to tackle my own body issues,” and soon spiraled into a joint effort “to increase the accessibility of control, celebration, and space for connection to and from body parts.”

After all, we spend a lot of time with our bodies – indeed, we spend all of time with our bodies – but how often do we confront the issues with, or celebrate the beauty of, that relationship?  A call to arms (pun intended) for us to suit up and take to battle our feelings of body love and body hatred, Attention: People with Body Parts encourages a movement of honesty.

With personal narratives from forty-three people to various body parts, the collection speaks to skin, to fingernails, to cancer – “to any other part that makes us move” and that moves us.  The process of collecting and editing (but not, for the record, changing the content of) these stories has been involved, but very much worthwhile for Lexie. Acting as a confidante and a mentor, she asked her network of friends, family, and acquaintances to send her bits and pieces of what would eventually become an anthology. She told me, “I wanted anyone who has entered my personal web to leave a trace of themselves in this project.” The collaboration that ensued was astounding. Over the summer, Lexie received dozens of responses — people ranging from close friends to distant connections, pouring out their souls to various body parts that have enchanted and afflicted them over the course of their lives. As a thank you for their honesty, Lexie provided support and advice to the participants, including creating a resource for how to break down the body-mind divide.  No one who went into this project went into it alone. Rather, it became an inspiring community effort.

“I think discomfort is a good thing,” Lexie said.  “It makes people grow and stretch.” She admits that she, too, felt uncomfortable when writing letters to her own body parts, but that the process never made her feel unsafe.  Rather, it opened a world of comfort for her, forcing her to question (and then appreciate) her experience of the world in her skin. “I don’t have to sit in a quiet room with a cat and dim light to digest my thoughts anymore,” she says now. “The conversation comes every time I make contact with the world.”

Wanting to inspire that self-awareness in others, while not wanting to open a space where people would be told what they should do with or love about their bodies, Lexie decided that Attention: People with Body Parts wouldn’t be about preaching to people. Rather, what she wanted was to start a conversation – and to let people decide, given their intersecting and intersectional identities, how to best do that for themselves.

“All people with body parts deserve the opportunity to make their bodies portable safe spaces … That’s how you truly make body-positivity a grassroots movement.”

So, in an attempt to make the project as accessible as possible, Lexie created the web portion of the project, where she takes submissions from all people with body parts, to complement the publication of the book. The web-based letterbox, where people of all walks of life can submit notes to their own body parts, is intended and maintained to be a safe-space, open, but not limited, to “those who grapple with privilege in youth, color, and ableism, feel raveled in anxieties, hold tight to the lifelines in their palms, have histories of sexual violence and eating disorders, and those whose worlds confine their love based upon whether or not their partner has the same genitals.” Nobody – no body – is unfit. If you would like to join the revolution by submitting a “love letter, treaty, oath, prayer, manifesto, or poem,” visit the website here.

The book is expected to be published and released for purchase in late October.  To stay updated, check out the Attention: People with Body Parts Facebook page.

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