Not long ago I felt terrible about my weight. In spite of hating, really hating being at the pool, I found myself at a local pool with a group of families from my daughter's old school. They were all skinny and in good shape, even the husbands. I was trying so hard to just focus on the kids and enjoy how much fun they were having with their friends. There was a woman in the pool, by herself, just enjoying a corner of sunshine and cool water. She was big and wearing a bikini. Oh, did she spark quite a discussion. She was not even that far from the group as the men declared that she had no business wearing a bikini. Gross - they didn't want to see all that. All the wives agreed. There was a lot of clucking and nodding going on. Here I was, sitting among them just stunned. The woman they were trashing was no bigger than I was. Did they have no idea how offensive they were? How their words could hurt so much?
Finally I found my voice and offered that I think it was great that she felt so confident in her own skin that she could wear whatever she wanted and still enjoy a beautiful day at the pool. There was no agreement in that group. "Yeah, but still." Still what?
Self Acceptance vs Complacency
I am all for working towards a healthier body. There is a fine line between self-acceptance and complacency. Self-acceptance is great at every stage of the game. To love yourself allows you the ability to do good things for yourself. Accepting an overweight body (I'm not talking about about that extra 5 pounds we'd all like to lose) to the extent that one no longer cares to make a healthy change, that's complacency. However, it's so easy to get trapped in those feelings that I don't look good in a swimsuit, therefore, I'm not going to go swimming. How about, "I'm so fat and look terrible in my workout clothes, therefore, I can't go to the gym?" See where I'm going - it takes self love and acceptance of our bodies to go out and do the things that are healthy for us - NO MATTER WHAT SIZE we are. Our size shouldn't stop us from doing the things we love to do.
|Okay, so I'm about her size, but I don't look like that!|
Bodies are Beautiful
Now I ask, why do we (people in general) fear seeing other peoples bodies so much? There is this notion that unless you are fit, sexy and gorgeous, you don't have a right to be seen. When I was a kid, during my first trip to New York City to visit with my mother, she and I went to the nude beach on Fire Island. Mom hated wearing a bathing suit, much to my complete embarrassment. In Minneapolis, that doesn't fly so well. Once sunbathing topless at Lake Harriet, a poor cyclist ran straight into a tree as he gawked at the unusual sight of a bare chest in the Midwest! Fire Island, nudity wasn't so strange. At first, I was mortified. As a twelve year old, that was a lot to take in. By the end of the day, it didn't seem so strange. People walked proudly with all sorts of bodies. Large, thin, old and wrinkly, flat chests, pot bellies, vericose veins, stretch marks, surgical scars, whatever. The beach was filled with a very real selection of what humans look like. And nobody seemed to feel any shame. As evening drew on, the music came out and people danced, sang, touched and laughed. I loved it and it was beautiful - the whole scene.
That experience didn't cure me of my own body issues, but it helped in how I perceived others. I had always been interested in art throughout my life. In college, not the stuffy Mormon school that I first attended (I dropped out of almost immediately), but later in NYC, I had taken a figurative drawing class. Every class we had a nude model to draw from. Some were thin, some were old and wrinkly, some were voluptuous, and one was obese. As an artist, I found it hard to draw from the classic fit body. I had seen that body over and over in the media. It held no interest to me, and frankly, it lacks character. It was those bodies, normal bodies, like everybody bodies, that had great character and fed me with a challenging figure to recreate with charcoal and paper.
|Drawing by Jana Bouc|
The day the obese woman came in was exciting. She disrobed with a flourish, sat down, extended her leg, threw back her shoulders and lifted her chin. She was all confidence and sexy. The next day we had a little, thin waif. Her posture spoke for her insecurity in disrobing. It was very hard to draw her. I felt sad. She had the body that I wanted, yet it seemed she felt as terrible about her body as I did my much larger own. Throughout the semester, an older gentlemen would come to model. He was exquisite. While he had kept his body in excellent shape, he was marked with the wrinkles that was inevitable for his age. He gave me so much to put on paper. I finally figured that I knew him. He and his partner had joined us on one of those trips to Fire Island when I was a kid. Wow, small world.
Back to the swimming pool. I say don that bikini, tankini, or whatever bathing suit you feel comfortable in. Love your curves. Wear what you love and enjoy yourself. When that skinny guy with the skinny wife begin clucking about the fat lady in the bikini, know that they must be so insecure in their own bodies that they have to make sour remarks on others. Don't ever let anyone else tell you how to feel about yourself!
You are beautiful.