Spoiler Alert: We all have a Summer Body!
I am in cotton baby doll pajamas sitting on the couch with my laptop, working. My flatmate is also in her pajamas, working at her desk. (A perk of working from home!) My pajamas barely keep the “girls” in if I move too quickly and it’s short enough that I don’t dare wear it in the street even just to bring out the trash. My legs are stretched out under my laptop and my tattoos, one on the top of each thick thigh are showing beneath the fabric. It’s hot and it’s so much more comfortable to work this way than actually getting dressed every morning.
My flatmate is working on her travel plans, she’ll be leaving Colombia soon and heading off on new adventures. Out of nowhere she bursts out in frustration, “I am NOT looking forward to having to wear a bathing suit in Costa Rica.”
I am first surprised at her outburst, and then I ask her, “Why?”
“Because I haven’t lost any weight since I’ve been here and I just don’t have a bathing suit body.”
I thought for a minute and decided, yes, I’m going to say it, “You have a bathing suit don’t you?”
She looked at me strangely, “Yes of course, but…”
“Then you have a bathing suit body. That’s all you need.”
She rolled her eyes up into her head, HARD. “UGH, of course, you say that. YOU wear bikinis! I still cannot believe you do that. I could never do that!”
I didn’t bother to ask her why she feels this way. I know why. I know why people of all shapes and sizes have hang-ups about our body sizes and types. I know that the beauty ideal for most of the western cultures is a ridiculous standard that very few of us can meet. But I decided, when I left the US, I was not only going to leave the country, I was going to leave any feelings I had about that standard behind as well.
I am not a small woman, I am almost 6 foot tall and I am well into the 200 lbs range. Once (maybe twice) I was down to 160, but I was also over 325. I think this gives me a unique perspective on body positivity and being aware of your weight.
As I sat there having this conversation with my flatmate I said out loud, “I kind of love my body.” And you know what? It is true. I sat there, looked down, and knew that I love my thick thighs, and my flabby soft beautiful belly is part of who I am. My heavy breasts, one much longer than the other, are a huge part of my identity. This body with all its flaws, (I have the strangest wrinkles on my forehead from sleeping on my side, and my knees are so bad with arthritis I need to have them replaced soon) has taken me around the world, and it’s about to go around again. I love it for its beauty as well as its support and protection.
I remember a long time ago on a blog long since forgotten, I wrote a piece about how I used to not like my body, but how I was learning to love it more. An interesting thing happened after that. My BFF called me up and called it… “Bullshit.” Wait, what? She told me that she didn’t recognize the woman in that post. She reminded me that I had never really been shy or awkward about my body. She thought I had taken on some burdens about beauty that did not belong to me and expressed them because I thought that was how I was supposed to feel, not because it was how I really felt.
She wasn’t wrong. The blog was a series of stories about being a big girl and dating and living my life in a new big city as a happy curvy woman. But, I think I felt guilty for being a happy curvy woman. I mean who does that? Happy and Fat? (Well ‘fat and happy’ IS an expression for a reason I suppose!) But I know I was also holding onto a lot of messages from the past.
My Pastor from growing up: “You need to lose weight if you want someone to marry you. Even Christian guys care about what a woman looks like.”
My Dad: “I think it’s important to look good.” When I told him, “But Dad, I want someone who loves me for who I am not just my body!” He responded, “Well, I am not that guy.” (I blogged about this once upon a time when my family knew my blog info and this caused a HUGE fight between my father and I. He swears he didn’t say that… Everyone remembers things differently.)
What messages have you heard about weight and beauty standards that you find difficult to shed?
When I left the US and started traveling, I was happy to realize that many of the impossible beauty standards of weight that were still a little stuck in my psyche were easily shed. I realized that people in other parts of the world didn’t have these issues in the same way. I realized men in other parts of the world, not only tolerated my weight but celebrated it. They could love the parts of me I still found unlovable.
One of those first revelations came while I was in bed with my lover in Costa Rica.
Lover: Oh my darling, I love your body.
Me: (shy look) Oh, ok thanks, it’s not so great.
Lover: Are you kidding me? Look at you.
At this point he rolls over and looks at me laying in his bed naked, he grabs the inside of my arm and says, “Look at this… I love this!”
(This immediately prompted an eye-roll from me!) He reached down and grabbed the fattest part of my belly, “And THIS, this is so beautiful so feminine.” Now I am sure my face was red, THAT is the part I like least for sure! But before I could roll away or react, he reached down and grabbed the flabby part of my inner thigh and growled, “THIS, this is the part, this is you, this is your beauty!” And of course, from his hands being that close to the center of all good things, his mouth was soon there and any protests I wanted to voice, were forgotten in the pleasure of the moment.
But I will never forget. Those compliments followed immediately by that pleasure set a new tone for the continued development of my own love of my body. I had brought a bikini with me, and now I wore it all the time, not just when I was in the pool alone. I pretty much only wear bikinis now. Ever. (And I have gained weight since then!)
When I told my flatmate a few months ago that I only owned bikinis, she was flabbergasted. She made me show her, she didn’t believe me. She asked me, “How can you do that?” I ignored the fact that her incredulity was a sign of her believing that I didn’t have the right body for a bikini, and tried to focus on the body positivity that maybe I could pass on to her.
What I know is this:
- No one is really looking at me and my body anyway. If they are wasting time judging me in my bikini, their life sucks and mine is awesome.
- People like a larger variety of body types than our society would let you believe.
- If they don’t like your body, they’re not your person. Move on.
- Bodies are amazing wonderful things. They give us a home for our souls and our hearts. They give us so much pleasure. I like to focus on how wonderful a machine they are.
- My body is truly beautiful.
When I say all those things above, I can hear people thinking to themselves, “Good girl. Just focus on all those other things, your body works, no one is looking at you anyway. Great coping mechanisms.” But when I come right out and say, “I believe my whole body is beautiful.” Belly flab, thick thighs, hanging breasts… Isn’t that just a little too far? I can think I am beautiful, but I can’t really think MY BODY is beautiful can I? I mean, I have a pretty face, right? Pretty eyes? Nice cleavage (in a bra). But really?
Yes, really. As I sat there that day, talking to my roommate, I looked down at my belly, my barely restrained breasts, and my thick thighs, and thought, I DO love my body.
Here are a few other posts I have written about loving my body and body positivity.
Check out the other great writings at Wicked Wednesday!