You wait, at first. You dont say anything. Instead, you put Band-Aids on her skinned knees when she topples off her develop motorcycle, and kiss the swollen finger she slammed in the car doorway. When she is three and you are eight, and she asks you to share the bathtub with her, you do. And you splash warm water over her head and gently brush her thin brown hair with your fingers. Then you hug her. And you dont say a thing.
Not until shes old enough to understand. Not until shes tired of wearing matching attires that are too small or too big or too scratchy or too matching. Then you tell her that she looks good in the shorts and baggy t-shirt, that she can pull off the overalls and pigtails, that she can rock the boots with the sweater, or whatever else builds her feel confident.
You tell her that she looks beautiful, but not only beautiful. Strong. You tell her she looks powerful in her riding boots or intimidating in her pencil skirt and blazer. You tell her she appears feminine in her eighth grade formal dress and tough in her softball uniform. And you tell her that you are proud when she reaches a triple, when she describes an amazing painting, when she receives an awarding for her grades. You teach her that it is not her body that builds her who she is, but her mind, her spirit, the way she carries herself, the style she chuckles, the style she loves, the way she listens.
When she is old enough, you tell her the truth. That our bodies are impermanent, all we are given. But that our bodies are what construct us unique. You tell her that her worth is beyond her body. But that she must rich this body, love this body.
When she is old enough, you tell her about your pain. The calories you counted, the scales you stepped on, the tears, and the times you cursed the mirror, wishing to be someone else. But more importantly, you tell her your triumphs. The days you let go of that reflection and celebrated your budding hips, your curves, your wonderful body that had finally detected how to love itself. You tell her the style you learned to run with passion, rather than loathe. The style you learned to enjoy food, enjoy exercising, enjoy life in a healthy balance.
You tell her how wonderful her body can be. How she can dress it up or dress it down. How she can cut her hair or leave it long. How she can wear heels or gym shoes. You tell her how electric, how dizzying, how mesmerizing her body can be. You tell her to be proud of this body. You tell her to be careful.
One day, you tell her how it feels to be touched. The rushed of warmth that will come when a hand that loves her connects with hers. How her scalp will tingle when someone she cares about runs his fingertips across her neck and depicts her in for a kiss. How beautiful this all is, at the right time.
One day, you tell her the mistakes you have made. You tell her how it feels to be broken. How it feels when youre not ready, when youre scared, when youre alone. You tell her how it feels when you give your body to someone who shouldnt have it, when “youre feeling” empty, when you have to learn to construct yourself back up again, piece by piece.
But you tell her that she is always whole, even if she feels violated. That her body is the shell that protects her heart, that her body is the beautiful casing that conceals her, but also sets her free.
You tell her that she is beautiful, that she is strong, that she is a woman, that you love her. You tell her that she should celebrate her body, love her body. But you tell her this: she will always be more than just a body . And she will always be your little sis.