In My Island Body by Pauline Locsin-Kanter

Sixty-two and a half, plus nine in the feet, blessed with 16 inches around the calf, makes for an island girl as strong as someone who wrestles with the expectations of being as petite as the skinny Asian next door.

Skinny doesn’t mean fit, nor does it mean strong. It is smaller in physique that slips easily in the twos and fours of the rack, but where I fall is a doubling when doubled in comfort.

This fullness in the body is immune to the beauty standard only known to the mainland. What is seen is not as important to what is felt. It is in the heart of the body’s flow that moves my people of Guam.

A pound on the conga, a stomp in the sand, a sway of the hips pushed by the rhythm of the wind. From my heels, to my knees, inner thighs and back, triceps, wrists, fingertips, and eyes, nothing stops the flow of the island breeze that whirls in my heart.

I am conflicted with what is real in my body as I can’t settle on one. From the “bailan batsu” to the jitterbug, my traditions span from Spain to the states. Yet, my body melts in a universal contraction, like two unrelated soul mates meeting in person for the first time.
The excitement feels raw, real, and ripe with the readiness to interrogate and answer my purpose as a dancer.

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the importance of my being, of the moves I make in life?
When does it start and when will it end? Where am I supposed to go with this idea and how am I supposed to do it all. The thoughts exhaust me to a point I often gasp for air.

My breaths aren’t choreographed, they are taken when life needs to be restored into the movement that the matriarch of my family loved so much. Liberated, yet proselytize, my Chamorro mother would inhale the beats of life and exhale that which she believed was freedom ringing in her soul.

Her DNA passed on the love and respect that our family is known for, with the breaths of life that sustained us as a unit. This vital force is the pulse driven by each needed inhalation; the breath that helps us find love, understanding, creation, and purpose.

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