Deenie Hartzog-Mislock | Longreads | April 2020 | 13 minutes (3,341 words)
About two years ago, I stopped feeling beautiful. Around that time, my husband stopped touching me. “I don’t feel sexy,” I told our therapist from the gray, tufted chenille seat adjacent to my husband’s. I kneaded a wet tissue, worn into holes, between my thumbs. “When he doesn’t touch me, it makes me feel bad about my body. And then I treat my body poorly, and then I hate the way I look and feel.”
I knew better. I knew our lack of sexual intimacy wasn’t about the soft, expanding skin that stubbornly clung to my midsection, or my thighs, so much thicker, dimplier now than they used to be, my entire shape a soft, aging pear. So different from what it was when I was a dancer in college, spending whole days in pale pink tights — when I was leaner, younger. I knew this was about him, his childhood (always the childhood), his work, and his insecurities. But I needed my therapist’s advice. After two years of starts and stops, his reasons for not wanting to have sex, however valid, floated from his mouth and immediately vaporized into thick, gray clouds that followed me around, threatening to dampen my self-esteem at any moment.
It’s my body, isn’t it? Do you not love me anymore? Through the dim light of our bedroom, after another botched attempt to physically pull him out from under the emotional weight he couldn’t seem to escape, I would ask these loaded questions while tears careened down my cheeks and onto the crumpled sheets between us. No, I love your body, he’d say. Of course I still love you. But I didn’t believe him. And sometimes I still don’t.