I am sitting with a friend having coffee. There are children playing somewhere in the background, there is that kind of disconnected chatting that we parents seem to specialise in. Stopping mid-flow to kiss a wounded knee, quell a major sibling war or to pick up tired bodies.
I love your top, I say. Something I had been meaning to say since we arrived.
Oh thanks, shame about the body underneath. Says my friend.
What? Don’t be silly you have a lovely body. And I am telling the truth. She does.
No I don’t. My body is disgusting! She says. And I am shocked. I pause, I think, a little open mouthed.
No it’s not, you have a beautiful body. I reply. But my words are drowned out by something epic happening in the room above us. She brushes my comment away like I’ve said something mildly offensive, as we are being moved away and onto the next situation. The next experience.
Later at home I think about what she said and I feel epically epically sad. How can this lovely looking woman think her body is disgusting? I mean of course I know why. I am, after all, a woman. But her words were so blunt, so brutal, so honest, it dragged this vague awareness that most women I know have – intense distaste for their bodies – to the forefront of my mind.
I have at many many points in my life thought similar things. Like my body was some kind of enemy that I had to battle against. That my body was horrible, gross, fat and yes even disgusting.
The photo above was from the morning after my son was born, almost eleven years ago. I found it again recently and thought – how lovely do I look? Yet at the time I was convinced I was some kind of giant whale of a woman. Oh dear. And I realised that in ten years time I’ll look back at my 38 year old self and think, oh how lovely. Suddenly I was struck with a revolutionary thought – why not just skip all that not-liking-myself-now, and just skip straight to – I look lovely now!
It’s amazing how the older I get the more logic has been colliding into my life smashing up some of the stupid neurosis that I’ve been carrying around. Because actually so many fears that we have, I’m a horrible person, I am a terrible mother, I’m shit at my job – are actually illogical, and (almost) totally untrue 🙂
It occurred to me that if I think about the bottom line of why I want my body to be nice it’s this – does my husband still wants to have sex with me? And the answer is yes he does. Frequently. Then I actually started to suspect that if I was back on the open market other members of the male sex would also like to share intimate acts with me and my body. So I realised I can’t be that disgusting can I?
To test if this might be true I decided to start walking around like I was some kind of sex goddess. Pretending I was some kind of catwalk model or Beyonce. Can I report back that immediately, immediately, my body of confidence started attracting male eyes (and a few female ones too, whoop whoop :))
But perhaps a bigger thing for me is – beyond who may or may not want to enjoy my body with no clothes on, is that I just plain refuse to not like myself any more. Life is short, I don’t want to waste it being horrible to myself. I am not a serial killer. I haven’t caused the meltdown of the global economy. I am nice to my neighbours. I think I’m quite a nice person. I recycle. Fuck being hard on myself. There is cellulite. There is intense ‘plump-tiousness’. There is a deeply squidgy tummy that feels like the bread dough I knead when I make pizza for my children. So what?
And even though I know the blah blah blah thing about the ideal woman is a twenty year old with a flat stomach and wide hips, that show a lack of pregnancy, rather than signs of both aging and the signs of pregnancies. But you know my husband’s body doesn’t look like a twenty year old Anthony Kiedis anymore and I still like him!
So I make a choice. To love my body. This is a choice I continue to make every day. It’s a choice that everyone can make. It’s like your own personal revolution.
I am now on a new regime. It involves – eating whatever the fuck I want to eat and celebrating my body like it’s the life-giving, sumptuous, Rubenesques wonderfulness that it is. Yes I have moments where my old habit of saying horrid things about my body suck me into that dark, body-hating place. But I counter this by doing body-loving things that help me accept who I am and what I have, these are
- Spending a tad too long walking around naked in the changing room at the gym (like the ‘tad’ in Airplane, lol!)
- Enjoying the rolling sensation of my flesh when I walk around naked
- When appropriate (i.e. when my son is out) naked dancing at home
- Very tenderly and beautiful putting body oil on my body, slowly and relishing all the little spots of my body. Scars, wrinkles, dents – the whole 9 yards.
For what other reason would I give a shit about whether my body was nice or not? Certainly not for companies who want me to think I’m a pile of crap and buy there stuff. Certainly not for other women or any other group of people. There is literally no other reason as far as I could see that I would want to be attractive in my body. And it seems my body is doing totally fine in that department. I am disappointing no-one.
And really, it may seem like a victimless crime to not liking my body, but it is in fact far from that if you have kids. The dislike of my body was threatening to transmute by osmosis to my daughter, because unfortunately our daughters feel about their bodies very similarly to how their mothers feel. Think you’re fat and disgusting, it’s likely that’s how your daughter will feel too. Love your body and all that it is, she’s way more likely to love her body too. Society at large will screw them up, but if we don’t start them off strong then they have much, much further to travel to self acceptance.