I thought I’d share this most recent life experience I’ve had with you all. It has to do with self-image, and how society feeds into what we ultimately view as ‘beautiful.’
In January I started dating this fellow. Now, I’m far from young (46) and recently single, so after being with the same person for almost two decades, there are a lot of things I simply didn’t think much of anymore, including my appearance. On our wedding day I was beautiful. Slim and fit… radiant. Within half a year I packed on forty pounds, and after getting pregnant put on about fifty more. I lost a mere ten or so pounds after Gabriel’s birth, and it took several years to even get close to the 200lb mark. I was self-conscious about how I looked, but my husband found me to be sexy anyway, despite the fact that we were slowly and methodically falling out of love.
So, last June we separated for good, after being together for 16+ years. I’m still somewhere between 40-50 pounds overweight, depending upon whose “ideal” scale you go by, but I’ve come to love my body despite its imperfections. I look womanly, with buxom breasts and a belly that one can readily observe as having housed a (relatively large) child. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with the way I look… the way I look today (which will change going forward… as I age… as I become more active… as I change my dietary habits… as I become more settled and happy in my “new” life).
Recently I began thinking of dating again, wondering how that would go, never having liked doing it in the first place. But how else was I to meet anyone? So after the first of the year, my ex-husband urged me to join an online dating community. Soon enough I connected with someone… we met… and we began to date. It appeared that we were compatible on many levels but immediately seemed to have some problems jiving physically. He had problems maintaining an erection, which he attributed to being nervous. Fine… that was understandable.
Eventually, after many more visits, and varied degrees of success on the physical front, and continued issues on others as well, we finally decided to take a hiatus from each other. During this time we exchanged several emails, speaking to our wants and hopes and what not… and at some point he shared that he found my “breasts” and my “cheeks” appealing, and would perhaps “learn to love the rest of” me as well over time… that perhaps sketching me (because he is an artist) might help.
I was floored. How could you cherry pick parts out of an individual? The rest of me is a package deal… I don’t come with snap on parts, and the parts I have are not interchangeable. I kept thinking “I am more than the sum of my parts.”
Let me move forward with this thought… I think the human body is beautiful. I am an artist too, and I love to render the human form the best. It’s wonderful in its diversity. Tall… skinny… short… plump… muscled… sinewy… soft… voluptuous… all shades of flesh tones… freckled or smooth… hairy or not… it amazes me. Not just the container, so to speak, but how each spirit within its confines emotes. It is what makes each of us unique… and beautiful, despite perhaps not being “conventionally” beautiful.
Whose convention, anyway? The ideal for what is considered beautiful has changed every couple of decades or so, although the skinny coat hanger look (which leads to so many eating disorders in our young women today) has been around since the late sixties, thanks to the fashion industry. When I studied art history, I fell in love with the impressionists, particularly Renoir. I was definitely a Renoir “gal”… round and red-cheeked, soft and buxom. I thought I was born in the wrong era, at a time when I had to somehow cultivate a six-pack (and we aren’t talking beer). Even when I was “in my youth” I had trouble doing that. Compound that with a busy lifestyle, not much of an inkling for physical activity, parenting, etc., and that is just not a reasonable goal to shoot for at this point in my life.
Still, though… I think that I am sexy, and I love having an intimate relationship with someone. It’s fulfilling on many levels, and I have never had to work at it… ever. It’s something that comes naturally. So when I’m made to feel “less than” I am by someone who is supposed to be raising me up to a higher potential, perhaps it’s just time to get off the bus and wait for the next one.