My lower back hurts today - and I am sunburned. Today was my daughter's fourth birthday and we had her party - Luca's party - at a friend's sitio. That means little piece of land with a house upon it. Except this one doesn't really have a house but instead just a pool and a wide open covered only for shade kitchen kind of place with a bathroom and shower. In other words, this friend is wealthy and this is their third property. The closets and storage spaces are elsewhere.
The fact that my lower back hurts is, according to one of my teacher's, based on the fact of being an American feeeeeemale. It's because I walk all sway-backed. Not as extreme as a toddler, with their rounded belly and concave backs, but the American version of it. In other words, as a woman growing up in the States, I learned to emphasize my boobs and butt with special emphasis on the boob part. Even though all these years later, I don't walk for display as much as I did in my 20s and yes, early 30s, my body and in particular my spine formed around this cultural girl self.
When this teacher - who is an exercize/physical therapist person who comes to the building where I live once a week to do stretching classes with all of us middle aged mamas - works on my body, she is always surprised. "But look how much you bend here, " she says, as my thighs end up around my ears and my hips hinge back and forth like a swinging door. "And what is wrong here, why won't you move? Brazilian women always move here," when my lower back and hips won't swivel fully and my hips, while hinging back and forth, are frozen against making any grown up sized circles.
She believes that the United States fucks up women's lumbar region and that's why we always hurt "down there." Brazilian women, she says, don't have lots of lower back pains. They get it at the top, in their shoulders where they stoop. This teacher, her name is Leslie and I adore her, used to live in Japan. She did this same work in Japan for years before coming back to Brazil. In Japan, she says, because women (and men) sit on the floor so much rather than sitting unnaturally upright in tables and chairs, Japanese women have the kind of cores that only Pilates can give you. "They hold themselves up, all the time. They don't let the chairs do it for them. Japanese women rarely have back pain. They have other problems."
Don't even get her started on American men's and Japanese men's bodies versus Brazilian men's. She's pretty clear that Brazilian men are miles ahead. "They are allowed to move their hips without anyone thinking they're gay. American and Japanese men have to walk as though their penis is the only mobile part of their bodies between their torsos and their toes."
Since meeting Leslie, I spend much of my time walking around, trying to get my scapula to kiss in the middle of my back, my butt to tuck in a way that makes my spine longer, my belly to be fierce and tight and my breasts to just sit there in their quiet pacifist way.