What if you just pretended you were beautiful. Even if you didn’t believe it. Just acted on the assumption that your body and face were beautiful to look at and everyone loved it. How free would life feel?
I tried that. Not intentionally really…I just kind of gave up worrying because I’m old. I’m sick with fibro and I am tired. I’m tired of pulling at my clothes and swimsuits to cover my fat etc. I’m tired of being hot when I go out in the sun because I’ve covered my fat so much. I’m exhausted at a beauty regimen that is sort of simple compared to most of my friends. I am pretty much exhausted at life most of the time. So, I just gave up over vacation. I took a vacation from caring about fat or my double chin or my red face or any other perceived faults.
I think I was encouraged by my sister a bit. She oozes beauty out of her pores. She is young, blond, vibrant with dazzling blue eyes that are unusually shaped. It gives her an allure I can’t describe. She is so unbelievably beautiful and I’m all the time being told she looks like me. That reflection, seeing her sometimes when I make a certain face in the mirror, has made me feel beautiful and young. Having her close really makes that connection hum for me.
I’ve always thought highly of myself, a relatively good self-esteem, but I’ve always been a really good fat person too. I covered myself so not to offend someone, from even before I was truly fat. I made sure my “faults” were covered. I never wore stripes. I covered my legs for the most part. My belly hasn’t seen the light of day since I was fourteen. I wear a skirt with my one-piece swim suit, and usually wear a cover up until I can slink into a pool unnoticed. When I read about the body positive movement I was behind it all! I was like “You go girl! Wear that bikini!!! That woman is a badass, but I could never do it.” I would look down at my fat belly and think “No, not my belly, my belly is not for public consumption.” I believe that I should be free to wear what I like. I believe anyone should be free to wear what makes them feel good. I just didn’t think I was at the place where I could put that belief into practice.
The body positivity movement is inspiring, but also defending it can be exhausting. There are people who just don’t understand how horrible it is to hate yourself, or maybe they do? I like to think that they truly believe they are trying to help, even if what they do can harm the fat people in their lives. I like to think the best of people. In my own life, I try to not discuss weight with my loved ones. I get so angry and upset. I am tired of explaining that I have to be in control of my body. I have to feel good about my body in order to provide self-care. Why would I care for myself if I felt my body was not worth the time? We want women to care for themselves, don’t we? I want the women in my life to care for themselves, especially my sister. She is so young and energetic. I want her to think of her body as the beautiful miracle it is. To do that, I want her to see me loving and caring for my body. It may not affect her self-esteem seeing me love myself, but I can always hope. As an older, plus size woman I have learned to actively love myself. I take time to maintain my body and I am learning to cast off all those social conventions that have made me feel uncomfortable with certain pants, stripes or swim suits.
This week between learning about the body positive movement, my sisters influence, and the fact that my fibromyalgia flared I decided to love myself. I decided to cast away all self-doubt and just swim, walk, and laugh with abandon. My sister helped me pick out shorts. I wore shorts in public for the first time in years. My mayonnaise legs basked in the sunlight while looking for whales in the Atlantic Ocean. I ran in with my fat arms waving in the breeze and didn’t care. I was too tired with my body aches to pull down my swimsuit over my thick thighs. Did we get shunned? Made fun off? No. Actually, a woman came over and offered to take pictures of us. She said she was enjoying watching us laugh and looking like we were having so much fun. She wanted to help us commemorate these moments. It was a pretty amazing day at the beach.
The last day we were there my sister was kind of bummed we didn’t get to swim in the ocean again and we usually try to do something a little crazy and life affirming when we get together, so I suggested we get into the ocean with our full clothes on. I was wearing leggings, an exercise bra and kind of a fancy shirt. Right up until we got to the water, I was going to wear my shirt because I had always said, “Never my belly.” At the last minute after placing my purse on a rock, and giving my husband my phone to take pictures, I triumphantly whipped off my shirt and bared my belly in my exercise bra. I just dove in and laughed at the wildness of running into the ocean almost fully clothed. I was having too much fun splashing and laughing with my husband and sister to care about how my white fat belly looked in the sun. Again was I laughed at? Pointed at? I don’t think so. I wasn’t paying attention. Frankly, I didn’t care one last bit.
I felt triumphant. I was bonding with my family and I was not ashamed. It has made me want to take care of my body even more. I was exhausted and sore after. I don’t want to be exhausted and sore while on vacation anymore so I am working even harder. It isn’t shame that works, it is capability that inspires me. Please listen, if you feel like only shame works. It doesn’t. Living is a pretty magnificent carrot. It’s hard living when you’re shrouded in shame.