Thanks for this. The journey you describe is so close to mine that blood is rushing in my ears as I finish it. In addition to not feeling “right”, not feeling competent, not feeling welcome doing physical activities, regular occurrences of sexual and emotional abuse (from different people) over a decade helped to fully alienate me. As a smart girl I also opted for what I thought was the sci-fi, philosophical solution–ignore the body, focus on the mind. The baby analogy is a good one. I do feel a bit like a baby again–maybe about 4 years since I started trying to love my body, to be in it, to experience it, and to care for it. Better late than never, truly.
Boys grow up by getting bigger, stronger, louder. The things that a male child is encouraged to be good at are, by and large, things esteemed in the male adolescent too. But for girls, adolescence is a time of loss. Becoming a woman means giving things up, explains Deborah Cameron in The Myth of Mars and Venus, and taking up new and feminine occupations: “In particular, [girls] abandon physical play: instead of using their bodies to do things, they start to focus on adorning them.” Somewhere in the passage between being a child and becoming a grown-up, girls learn that our bodies are not ourselves, but a portable property that we must cultivate, display, and trade for the best bargain we can make.