Why are women in your thrall?
I consider myself enlightened when it comes to my existence and presentation as a woman.
After all, I am a psychotherapist and a feminist. I do love myself and have worked hard to love my body. My small breasts became larger to breastfeed my son. They sag now for the same reason. They fulfilled their role and I am quite proud of them. The author, Robert Heinlein, wrote of “baby chewed breasts” being beautiful. I agree. My Caesarean scar also reminds me of one of the best experiences of my life. When I maintain my weight, the looser abdominal muscles resulting from pregnancy aren’t obvious. When I am heavier, the resulting tummy is yet one more reminder of the powerful joy of bringing a human being into the world.
However, in spite of my joy in my body, and my understanding that women are too hard on themselves, I am my mother’s daughter, and she never left the house without full make-up. The culture has also had it’s way with me, from the days of emaciated fashion models, to the filtered and retouched film and photos of celebrities. And then, I have aged, which is a rite of passage in our western society that is not honored or revered in women.
Conflicting emotions about looks arose for me with the recent visit of my lover. I just put him on the train back to our home town, after a soul and body satisfying visit. First, let me clearly and loudly state that he loves my body, my face, my wrinkles, my humor and personality. None of my cognitive dissonance has anything to do with his attitude toward me. I honestly believe he would find me sexy in a sack. Given that, and my own ability to love myself, why did I find myself commenting negatively and frequently on my weight? Why did I worry about my face while taking him to the train, because I didn’t put on the makeup that at least minimizes my wrinkles? It isn’t like he hasn’t seen my naked face before.
It isn’t even that I don’t believe what I said to him: That I earned every wrinkle through laughter, sailing the ocean, dancing in smoky bars, and orgasms, and that I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for an unlined face. I completely believe that I have earned my face, and I like it.
My lover is, however, thirteen years younger. We’ve known each other for seventeen years, and the age difference didn’t matter to me at all at first. Since we hadn’t seen each other for six years until recently, and my age itself is more significant to me now, the age difference feels more significant. To me, not to him. It’s the only excuse I have for acting less than self accepting.
Several years ago, some of my friends who are older than I, talked about disappearing as they got older.
People ignored or overlooked them. I decided I would simply not let that happen. As I have aged, I make it a point to smile and greet people. I especially greet older women so they don’t feel invisible. I strike up conversations with the young guys at check outs who are looking down while scanning items. When they look up to answer, I smile, and they visibly brighten. In the metaphysical realm, I extend love energy everywhere I go, and am rewarded with people doing double takes, or suddenly smiling at me. The only times I am truly ignored is when I want to be.
So how do I make sense of my need to obsess over my current weight? Why do I prefer make-up to no make-up? In spite of the fact that the one male gaze I care about finds me attractive. I believe it is the curse of being an aging female in our culture, its subsequent denigration of the less than perfect female form, and a result of my determination to look as much as possible on the outside as I feel on the inside.
In my thirties I got a chin implant.
My therapist was concerned that I thought it would alleviate self-esteem issues, which she knew didn’t work. I assured her that I just wanted other people to see me as I saw myself. And that is the purpose it serves. She could see that after I had it done. This is the same therapist who advised us women to go home and get naked in front of a full-length mirror and concentrate on everything we like about ourselves. She knew we usually concentrate on what we don’t like. Switching that view point permanently changed the way I look at myself for the better, and I assign the exercise to my clients with dysmorphia.
People often ask me if I’m an artist.
Probably because I hang out with artists and musicians, and my clothes and jewelry are trendy. I gesture at my hair, face, and body and declare, “This is my canvas.” While writing is my craft and creative outlet, I consider the window dressing of my physical being to be my expression of who I am in each moment and incarnation. This can mean dressing my body a certain way, wearing different types of make-up, and changing my hair on a regular basis.
While I was practicing martial arts, I found that having my body be fit was a part and a result of that practice. I haven’t practiced in six years, and it shows. I want that body back as much as is possible, because I feel stronger and more confident in it. The one I am in is serving me well, and a stronger, fitter one will serve me even better in terms of health and agility.
In spite of the deviation from my stated course this weekend, I am still friends with my mirror. It shows me being the best me I can be at the moment. Even when that isn’t perfect by any standards. Perfect is boring.
What are the reasons I put work and love into my body and appearance? To keep my body healthy and able, so I can enjoy life and its activities, including great sex. To take my best and favorite features and emphasize them for pure fun and art. To spread love and recognition to those who don’t often receive it. To be more fully myself in every situation.
Everything you see is a reflection of who I have been, who I am, and who I plan to be. And that is the best mirror of all.