Today, in the parking lot of the grocery store, I had the most unique thing happen.
I walked out of the store behind a young woman who had to be in her early 20s. We were headed in the same general direction in the parking lot. She was wearing one of the long knit skirts that I love so much, and I recall thinking, “If my ass looks like that when I walk in one of those I might not want to wear those again.” There was nothing wrong with her bottom, believe me… I mean she looked perfect as only someone so young can. I just didn’t realize they can bounce that way as you walk, and how they can look in one of those skirts.
She loaded her groceries and got into her car as I walked on to min. She was pulling out of her spot driving toward me just as I was taking my cart back to the corral… She had rolled down her window and was leaning toward me saying, “Excuse me ma’am”. I leaned in toward her to hear what she was asking, and the question was “Have you heard of body wraps? They remove weight in one wrap… would you like a coupon for a free one?”
My first thought was, “Hmm, is she telling me I’m fat? Wow, she’s got some serious balls.” But my reply to her was, “No thanks, I am very happy with who I am, imperfect body and all.”
I’ve given it lots of thought though, and that small interaction in the parking lot actually needs something more, so here it is…
Dear Sweet Early Twenty –something Young Woman,
It was terribly sweet of you to stop me in the grocery parking lot earlier today, especially to offer me a coupon for a “free tummy wrap”, really. I’m sure you were just trying to promote your or a friend’s business, or, who knows, maybe you get a percentage back or free wraps. Or, maybe you just thought I am fat and need an easy fix.
When I told you that I was quite comfortable with my body, but thank you for offering it to me, I couldn’t quite gauge if you were horrified that I feel comfortable with who I am, or if you were simply beyond shocked that someone turned down a free body wrap (I know they are not cheap).
You are a beautiful young woman, and it makes me sad to think that you are so wrapped up in how society deems you should look that you cannot recognize your amazing beauty. It makes me even more sad to think I did once upon a time in my life too.
I stand a good five feet five inches tall. Not tall by today’s standards, and not short either. The least I can remember weighing in my life was 105 pounds. That was when I was about 17 years old and my very first boyfriend, my first love, and I were breaking up. I was heartbroken, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate, wanted to kill myself… it was a horrible, horrible time in my life.
Fast forward to now. I’m still the same five feet five, but weigh about 150 pounds… that can vary, but that’s my general set point. I’m also just about to turn 55.
This body has definitely changed. My boobs are MUCH larger than they were when I was 17, and they definitely don’t stand as high on my chest as those B cups did back then… but when I was 17 they hadn’t nourished two children either. And, we won’t even discuss how long I nursed those babies, it makes some people uncomfortable.
My tummy has never been flat, even when it really was flat I still saw it as fat. And now, my waist isn’t 28 inches any more, but that’s ok, because this tummy has grown a human being in it, not once, but twice… and gave birth to both, naturally, and I haven’t got a stretch mark to show for either. Oh, and both of those babies were 8 pounds or greater.
And, what a great many people don’t know, this body has battled cancer, and won.
There was a time in my life though, that I worried so very much about how others viewed my body. I bought into the message the media was sending. I must find a way to always stay young, like you are now. I needed to be thinner and thinner, tiny, you know, like you are. My hair had to be long and luxurious, you know, sort of like yours is. My skin had to be tanned just right, like yours is… make up always had to be applied just so. My face had to be smooth, no wrinkles, like yours is now.
But, somewhere along the way, a realization smacked me in the face. My body, over the course of my life, will age. That is just how it will be. That is how it is meant to be. My boobs will hang lower than they once did, and so will my tummy. My legs may not be pieces of steel any longer, and that little muscle under my arm, you know the one… when you raise your arm it sometimes moves (I call it the bye-bye muscle, since it waves when you wave bye-bye)… it isn’t as stiff as it once was. And that is all just fine.
I am no longer a size nuthin’ and a half, I’ve moved into a whopping size 10, sometimes a 12 if I’m going for that one piece dress (those darned boobs)… but, I’m healthy. I just got a AAA rating not so long ago for my life insurance, so I don’t feel too bad. My last cholesterol reading was under 100, and I had to have it done again because they couldn’t believe it could be that low. Sure, I could lose those extra 15 pounds, but I’ll be real honest, I just like my wine and the occasional piece of dark chocolate too much.
I could spend all my free time in the gym, but I’d rather spend it in my studio or with the people I care about, or volunteering at the nursing home, or contribute it to so many other things that I can do to strengthen my community. Those few miles I walk a day will simply have to be enough. My diet is plant-based, I limit my simple sugar intake to practically nothing, I rarely eat anything that is fried, and I haven’t had any sort of soda in almost a year now. I get at least 8 glasses of water in a day, and most of the time more than that. I spend time each day in mindful meditation. I count my blessings. I remember that each of us is on our own journey and it is not mine to judge any other’s journey, just to walk with them a way if I am called on to. I walk. I see the miracles of the Universe everywhere I look.
But, and this is the MOST important thing I am going to say in this whole rant, the bottom line is that, after 55 years I have finally learned a few things…
I am so, so, SO much more than this body, and all of those things mean more to me than how the outside world views this body.
That doesn’t mean I plan to do nothing and let it fall apart, don’t get me wrong. My plan is to live as healthy as I can for as long as I can so that one day I can be the old lady in the nursing home pinching the asses of the young, hunky, good looking orderlies when they bring me my meds…
But, for now, I am going to sit here and have a glass of that wine, and thank my body, with all of its beautiful imperfections, for standing strong for me through all we have been through. And I’m goinig to realize how lucky I am that I have reached a point in this short life we are given, that I know I do NOT have to let society dictate how I should see myself. I will see myself as the Universe has created me… a miracle.
I hope that you find yourself in the same place one day…