I like to think that when I was born, I emerged fully clothed in a lime green sequined onesie. Because emerging naked in public is just not something I would do.
There are people who visit nude beaches, participate in naked bike rides, or eat their breakfast in the buff with their curtains open (Hi, neighbor. For dog’s sake, please think of the children!) I am not one of those people.
I’m barely comfortable showering in my birthday suit.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate my body any more than the average woman. But that may be the problem. According to research (click here for lots of depressing and eye-opening studies: http://www.sirc.org/publik/mirror.html), at least 80% of women over 18 are unhappy with what they see in the mirror. Right now, at age 62, I mostly don’t want to see my post-menopausal belly, which I have lovingly dubbed Ass#2. I’m fairly certain Ass#1 is also a scary thing, but out of sight, out of mind.
When I was in my 30s, it was my “thunder thighs” that I obsessed over despite the fact that they never actually created thunder (although when they rubbed together and then I touched something metal, sometimes we could manage some lightning).
Throughout my life, no matter what I weighed, whether 115 or 165, I have always, in the back of my mind, considered myself overweight.
From a young age, girls are taught to hate their bodies – by the media, by social norms, even by their own families. When I was a kid, my dad used to call me “Truck Driver” because I wasn’t as thin as my younger sister, whom he dubbed “Bony Macaroni.” That didn’t screw up us up! I’m sure it was something else!
Studies have found that no matter what we look like, the majority of girls and women think they are fat and unattractive. For example, 81% of 10-year-old girls in America have already dieted at least once. And two-thirds of underweight 12-year-old girls consider themselves to be too fat. It’s a wonder the mirror industry has survived this long, what with none of us wanting to see our own reflection.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the… never mind. I don’t want to know.”
One of the best parts of getting older is that while our aging bodies may betray us more often, most of us are not as worried by what they look like. Sure, I’m occasionally frustrated when I try to wear something that used to look good and now makes me look like I’m 6-months pregnant, but most days I’m happy that despite my years of gymnastics, marathon running, and teaching high impact aerobics, my body doesn’t hold those against me.
My knees still work, as do my hips. My shoulders are good unless I decide to hang upside down from the monkey bars at the school down the road and have to get back down. (If you have rotator cuff issues, do not try this!) And extra padding all over keeps me from bruising as easily when I throw myself on the floor during improv class.
When I look at the (mostly clothed) bodies of my friends, I see beauty.
Whether tall or short, round or rail thin, young or old, I don’t judge their bodies as I often do my own. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could be as nice to ourselves? To that end, I’ve decided to make some changes in recent years. The simplest is that every night, right before I go to sleep, I thank my body for seeing me through another day and for providing the three dachshunds snuggled up against my fluffiest parts a comfy place to nap.
Five years ago, I really stepped out of my comfort zone in order to change my mind about my body. Along with approximately 50 other women (all of whom were younger than me), I ran stark naked across a field for a photographic project depicting women turning their anger on the media, doctors, and politicians.
We all got undressed in a large warehouse, applied red mud to each others’ naked bodies in the parking lot, then walked across a busy intersection in the buff as the rain washed off most of the mud. It was an embarrassing and exhilarating day and the photo (https://www.instagram.com/p/BUao2i7jAZj/) taken by the truly talented Tracy Sydor (https://www.tracysydor.com/) – is a beautiful work of art. A copy of it sits on the mantle of my fireplace.
And whenever I feel body-loathing creeping in, for whatever reason, I study it and know that on that one day, we were free to be in our bodies without judgment.
I’m not saying I’ll show up on a nude beach anytime soon, but I am less judgmental. However, I’m still gonna wear flannel PJs in the shower, but mostly because it’s cold in my house – and I haven’t been able to find a lime green onesie that fits.