Thursday, October 18th, 2007 • No Comments on Love Your Body
Today is the tenth anniversary of NOW’s Love Your Body Day. I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to say on the subject, but I’m busy editing my novella, so I will share this essay I wrote for another website:
A lesson in humility is walking down the street with a much younger and much thinner woman and feeling practically invisible as men of all ages stare at her. Thankfully, my ego can take it, but I can’t help but feel sorry for those men because they’re missing out on so much. No—not me—I’m not interested, but there is a veritable banquet of older women— radiant, passionate, sensual older women— just waiting to be sampled. Actually, I doubt they’re waiting for anything. Women of a certain age tend to take what they want without waiting for someone to give them permission.
On several occasions at the coffee shop where I go to write, I’ve noticed two older women in particular. The first is in her mid-sixties, a plump woman with ample curves that suggest fertility even though she is long past her childbearing years. Her hair is a shock of white, pinned back from her face. Long strands of that white hair often slip their confines to trail down her wrinkled cheeks. Her eyes crinkle when she smiles, as does her mouth. If I had to guess, I’d say she smiles a lot. Her waist is thick, probably in part from the rich desserts she orders with her black coffee. She wears clothes that border on frumpy, yet there is always something about her outfit that suggests a sensuality most people wouldn’t notice at first glance. Her skirts come below her knees, but she doesn’t wear stockings and her shoes are open-toed sandals that reveal a fresh pedicure. Her blouses are conservative, high-buttoned and in neutral colors, yet they’re often unbuttoned enough to reveal a hint of cleavage or a wayward bra strap in some not-so-neutral color as turquoise or hot pink. There is something about her smile—playful, almost secretive, that makes me think she’s a satisfied woman—in all ways.
The other woman is younger than the first, probably mid-to-late fifties. Her hair is a dramatic shade of strawberry blonde, falling below her shoulders. The only makeup she ever wears is lipstick—some glossy shade of dark pink so that her hair and her lips are the first things you notice. She’s slightly thinner than the first woman, but the extra pounds she carries don’t weigh her down.. She often wears flowy, calf-length sundresses, sleeveless but with a high neck. They’re brightly colored, unlike the first woman’s wardrobe, but not what I’d call sexy. The last time I saw her, however, she revealed a lot of leg when she sat down because of the thigh-high slit running up the side of her purple dress. She didn’t pull and tug at the fabric to cover what she’d bared. In fact, she always seems very comfortable in her own skin— and in revealing it. Like the first woman, she smiles a lot and her laughter is that easy, quiet laugh of someone who is at peace with herself. She’s American (or, at least has no discernible accent), but on two occasions I’ve heard snippets of her cell phone calls—one was in Spanish, the other in French.
These two women captivate me. There is something about them, some intangible quality so rarely seen in women of any age. Though they bear the wrinkles and spots and sags and pounds of age, they seem ageless. I wonder what has made them that way, what experiences and philosophies they have embraced in order to be so at ease with themselves. I wonder if they’ve always been this way or if they grew into it. So many women seem to be in a constant state of perpetual unease, uncomfortable in their own bodies and hiding from the world beneath baggy clothes and hunched shoulders. Not these two women. They have a presence about them that makes them impossible to ignore. They are luscious, vibrant women and they know it. Maybe that’s what makes them seem so much more alive than other women— they know, and love, who they are.
Spending fifteen minutes watching women like this is so much more valuable than reading women’s magazines with airbrushed covers and diet articles. This is something I can aspire to be. This is something I want to be.
One last thing relating to body image: this educational Illustrated BMI Categories photo set by Kate Harding provides an interesting visual for those terms society deems ugly, non-sexual and unhealthy. Do the terms “morbidly obese” and “triathlete” belong in the same description? Apparently, they do.