A week after Canadian musician Tara MacLean posted an incredibly vulnerable, incredibly honest and incredibly written personal reflection about sexual assault, body image, and societal pressures of beauty, the 46-year-old singer-songwriter is still getting messages about how it has hit home.
The Facebook post, entitled My True Story, is not just powerful, but, not surprisingly, coming from an accomplished songwriter — who released her first album, Silence, with Nettwerk, in 1996, and her most recent one, Deeper, independently, last year — poetry too, from birth to eventual death, each line chronically a life-altertering event, including being sexually assaulted at age 6 to being dropped by her U.S. record label, told to “just” go be a mom. It has been shared more than 4000 times, received 6000 likes and loves, and received over 800 comments from both women and men.
“Tara MacLean has very courageously shared her story here. If young women are part of your life please take a moment to listen to this story,” wrote one.
“For women, mothers, men with daughters, everyone...” posted another, while someone else said “you broke and healed my heart today when I read this.”
“For anyone who needs to be reminded that they are beautiful and body image brainwashing is bullshit, PLEASE READ this touching, albeit tragic, tale of the lovely and talented Tara MacLean,” implored another.
The mother of three girls tells Samaritanmag, “The response to this piece is really blowing my mind. It’s like something has broken open. So many of us walk around with these dark stories that keep us down, keep us small. But if we share them, if we bring them into the light, then we take our power back. It feels like a tide is rising. It’s time to deeply love ourselves so we can truly love each other. This is how we change the world.”
MacLean says she was inspired to “unlock my courage to share at that level” after reading Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, which came out earlier this year. “She inspired me to be unapologetically honest and to really listen to that voice that was telling me it was time to tell this story. Sadly, it's really a common experience that I've had, which is why it seems to be connecting. My hands were shaking as I wrote it, which told me I was in new territory, excavating something deeper.”
Read Maclean's full piece below:
My True Story
I was born beautiful. The result of millions of years of evolutionary perfection. I ran, jumped, climbed, sang. Everything worked. What a miracle to be embodied!
The first sexual assault happened at age 6. I guess it’s normal, to be touched, to be desired.
At 10 my grandmother came up behind me in the mirror. She said, you are the perfect weight. Don’t gain any more. Men don’t like that.
At 13, I went on the pill. My body filled out and got chubby from excess estrogen. My breasts grew quickly. The boys noticed. They liked that.
At 14, one well meaning boy said, if you were 10 pounds lighter you’d be the prettiest girl in school. I thanked him.
At 14, I discovered I could eat anything I wanted, so long as I threw it up later. Then someone told me that would hurt my voice. I never did it again. The story I told myself stayed.
The pretty, skinny girls got shipped off to Japan right about now to model. They were chosen. Plucked from every high school. One day they were just gone. Some came back with lots of money. Some tried to throw themselves off rooftops. Some became skeletons and went straight to hospital or the psyche ward. Most had a story of some kind of assault. The chubby girls were a bit jealous though. Nobody chose them. They weren’t perfect enough to be assaulted overseas.
At 16, I had to bandage my breasts down in dance class. How could I move like the little ballerinas? I was hired to do a show. They kept calling me, asking me to lose weight, just drink more water and I would be thinner. Eat less. I was tired. My body wouldn’t drop it. They fired me. They said it was because I couldn’t sing. They hired a ballerina. I was angry. I made holes in the car tires of that director in the middle of the night.
The breasts had to go. I found a doctor who was happy to do it. I was left with bad scars. But at least they were gone. The boys were sad. They liked to be seen with the skinny girls, but they secretly wanted to make love to the soft ones.
At 19 another assault. The scars couldn’t protect me. My slashed tires. One moment I was sipping a drink, the next moment I was waking up naked and alone in a trashed hotel room. I remember enough to know there were two of them. But this is normal, to be desired, to be touched.
At 23 I began a life on the road playing music. I did photoshoots for magazines, stylist fittings, made music videos. The plan was always to find a flattering angle and clothing, so I would look slimmer. A little airbrushing couldn’t hurt. The camera adds 10 pounds. Sorry grandmother. Sorry boy in school. Sorry photographer. I must apologize for my body. It’s something to manage. Men don’t like that. The promoters in the Asian market noted that I was not the little pop star they were expecting. Coming in at a whopping size 6, I didn’t satisfy the demographic. If only she was thinner, she’d be so rich and famous. They liked my songs though.
I was invited to sing in a big Hollywood movie. The wardrobe ladies complained the whole time they were dressing me. We don’t have anything over a size two, they whined. What are we going to do with her arms? As if I wasn’t there, standing naked in front of them, my arms around myself.
I got pregnant at 28! Suddenly I had a reason! I could stop apologizing and be in my fullness. I loved it. I nourished my body. I had something perfect to nourish it for. See grandmother? The man likes it and I am married and I have 50 more pounds. You were wrong!
After the baby was born, the man didn’t like it. He didn’t understand. Not his fault. He’d never seen a post baby body before. He’d never heard about this part of the story. It wasn’t in the magazines. A well meaning friend said I should maybe lose the weight for my marriage. Men don’t like that. Grandmother, you were right. Her shadow standing behind me in every mirror.
The major record label in the US dropped me. They said I should “just” go be a mom.
And then I found myself in a yoga class. There was a mirror. Grandmother was there, picking me apart. I could not separate her voice from my own. My eyes were her eyes. By the end of the class, breath by breath she had faded. I went back the next day.
She wasn’t there. I looked around for grandmother, but all I saw was beauty. It happened that fast. I wept. Could it be that I was seeing myself with the wrong eyes all this time? Looking in the wrong mirrors? Or was this an illusion now? Am I...could I be...beautiful? Perfect? Chosen?
I have been going back for 16 years.
I had two more baby girls. I am now 46 and they are young women. They have never been touched without their consent. They have never once heard me complain about my beautiful body. They know they are perfect. My grandmother went to bed at my age. She was tired. She stayed there until she died 40 years later. I loved her.
I don’t work hard to be fit. I work soft. I walk through the forest, I dance in my kitchen most unlike a ballerina. I swim in the ocean. I practice yoga and meditation. I run, I jump, I climb. I sing. What a miracle it is to be embodied. The story still creeps in, tries to lie to me. I breathe. I choose.
Grandmother meant well. Everyone meant well. But they were brainwashed. We all were. This is the time of the reclamation. This is revolution. I am now my fullness. I am now my reason. No more apologies. I am telling myself a new story.
Actually, it’s my old story. My true story.
Thankfully I remembered it before becoming a grandmother. One day I will wrap my strong, soft arms gently around them and tell them they are perfect. That they are the universe expressing itself as form. That they are miracles.
And then I will die beautiful, like I have always been. The exquisite result of millions of years of evolution. I will die dancing.THE SNEAKER BULLETIN