Loud and Proud: Loving an Aging Body

Tonight I read a Huff Post blog entry about a woman who has decided to be out there, loud and proud, in a bathing suit. For any men reading, let me fill you in – this is not a small order. From the time that women develop self consciousness, wearing a bathing suit, or any small-ish item of clothing, is an exercise in self confidence. Let me tell you that most of us don’t have alot of that, when speaking of our own bodies. Men, on the other hand can run around in a pair of shorts, belly out, man-boobs flipping and flopping, chest and back hair blowing in the breeze, but women – we are not quite as confident. At least I am not.

At my thinnest, just before my wedding, I weighed in at 123 pounds. I am 5’7″ and do not have a small frame. I have hips, and have never had any muscle definition to write home about. I was athletic-ish in highschool (I was a majorette, and we practiced to no end), but my body is just not athletic no matter how fit I am.  In any case, on my honeymoon at the beach, I felt really good about myself. I was thin, felt lovely because of the situation, and I was rosey with love. Until I saw myself in the reflection in the window of a restaurant at which we were to have breakfast on our last day before we drove home.  As I walked toward that huge mirror of unedited truth, I saw cellulite on the front of my thighs. I was horrified.

Dear God, is this how my legs look all the time?!  That was all I could think of for the next several days. And years, apparently, since I stopped wearing shorts that didn’t reach my knees after that. I wouldn’t even wear dresses that showed the top of my knees.

Well, guess what happened this year?  I went to a department store and bought myself some shorts that are not long. And I have even worn them in public. I have to say that it is rather nice to not have to go to the grocery story in jeans when it is 92 degrees outside, or sit at my son’s tennis practice in the afternoon heat in culottes. At 41 (almost 42, now) years of age, I finally have enough self-confidence to say, “This is what my body looks like. If you are offended, please look away.”  I am not 22 years old any longer, but the sad truth is, I didn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret magazine at that age anyway. Not many do, and I didn’t either.

I am quite proud of my body, on the other hand. My body nurtured a fetus, did what it was supposed to do at just the right time, and I also managed to birth a child when my arm was broken, and I almost did not have an epidural. Just for kicks, I had some shots of lidocaine in unmentionable places that can feel pain just like any other part of the body, but I survived. My body healed as expected, and I am proud of it for what it did. So what if I don’t look like a magazine cover; the girls on those covers don’t even look like that! Sure, some women are physically fit, cut, and have a six pack that would make Aah-nuld himself proud, but I don’t have the time or energy to be one of those people.

My self-confidence is not quite there yet, but I am taking small steps to accept what I am. I try to look at my best features and discard the rest. It is not an easy task, but I know this is a place I must go if I am to be truly happy. Perhaps once all the wrinkles set in, my skin sags in all the appropriate places, and I am too old to fight it any longer, I will be accepting. But I want to be able to accept myself before that time. I know from conversations with friends that I am not the only person fighting this battle. But I want to set a good example for my child that we are what we are. We can eat right, get some exercise, and maybe not even be completely happy with our physical appearance, but it is nothing of which to be ashamed, certainly. In the end, this face I put out to the world is my only one, and I may as well embrace it.