How Do You Like Me Now?
What if I’m writing this naked?
Does that make me more interesting?
Will you still listen to what I have to say if I’m not conventionally pretty? Or young? Not delicate and feminine? Not what you pictured before you read these words?
In hooker heels, I’m over six feet tall. I’m a size 16. Those heels would be a size ten. I don’t wear them anymore. I don’t wear thong underwear. I don’t wear bras that make me look like I’m trying to serve you my breasts. I love a good boob shirt – on me or somebody else – but I don’t wear anything that compromises my comfort in order to make another person feel better about my femininity, my physicality, or my sexuality.
Am I still interesting? Assuming, of course, that I ever was?
I’m forty-seven years old. Two children via C-section. My belly button looks angry and bitter, and it’s so scarred and sunken that I feel certain that the right person could seduce it, which actually might cheer it up. I use it, and my scar, to make faces at myself in the mirror in the morning. It cheers me up.
I have been called buxom. A bombshell. Thick. Curvaceous. . A tall drink of water. Beautiful, once in a while. Sexy.
I’ve also been called handsome. Striking. Plain.
Fat. Ugly. Mannish.
I have prominent features, my nose is too big, my chin too strong.
I have a great smile, someone has said. My eyes are “captivating.”
Those last few sentences – are they true? I don’t know. They are unsolicited, subjective observations, made by people who felt like I needed to know what they perceived about the amount of space I fill, or the way I absorb and reflect the light.
And that was before the days of social media. Before we decided that a “right” to an “opinion” meant that posting a picture created both the license and necessity for every cruel, hateful, bigoted, inarticulate grunt and howl to be expressed, no matter the effect it had on the target.
I am not shy. But taking this picture, knowing that I was going to post it was very hard – I spent an hour in the yard fighting with my husband because every picture that he loved, I hated. All I could see were the flaws, and the negative things that someone might say, either to me or to themselves.
That is not what I want to pass along to my daughter. This is:
Not everyone will like the way you look. Not everyone will love you. Maybe only a few will – but what we need, and the most important thing we can give to each other is unconditional love and acceptance. Whether or not we manage to do that is far more important than how we look doing it.
As I say all of this, I am quietly hoping that when we get to the end of what may be the most terrifying post I have written to date, and you see my (fully clothed) photo, you will not be too critical of me. That you will wonder what fool called me “mannish.” That I won’t be too critical of myself. So.
Funny how age and gravity changes your perspective. I am now part of a different demographic – I no longer compare the shape of my body to that of a twenty year-old. They would win, every time, anyway.
That’s ok. The qualities I value have changed. Pretty is nice. But there is something about the wisdom that comes with age, being a partner, raising a family, and understanding both great love and great heartbreak that gives a person the kind of beauty that leaves me breathless.
I am not always my biggest fan, and sometimes I don’t like the way I look at all – but I will not apologize for not meeting someone else’s expectation of what is beautiful. The fact that beauty ideals differ between cultures and evolve over time should tell you how subjective the concept is, and if you accept that, you are free to reject a definition that is too narrow.
That is what I want to pass along to my daughter.
I don’t know if the “body positive” movement is helping anyone’s self-image or reinforcing the notion that what makes us, “us” is physical – and while accepting and celebrating different ideals of beauty is a positive step, we are unconsciously downplaying the importance of what lies beneath the layers of cells.
But I do know this: I hope that when I have moved on to whatever is next, I hope that my size, or how I did or didn’t look in a swimsuit is not what people remember. I hope I have surrounded myself and connected with the kind of people who focus on the intangible, unique and hopefully good things that make me who I am. That I have a big heart. That my sense of humor is why I am sexy. That my thoughts are as captivating as my eyes. If, instead, they choose to judge me by the body I inhabit, then that judgment will be theirs to reconcile.
And I do have a great smile.