I think I’ve hit the sweet spot of body image. Like its counterparts, the sweet spot of parenting and marriage, it’s happened gradually over the last few years and has come as a much-needed and very welcome surprise. As someone who wasted way too many years critically looking at herself in the mirror and sulking in disappointment, the fact I can now proudly stand buck naked in my bathroom, catch a glimpse of my backside, and not shriek in horror is a major personal win. Not only am I able to finally swing my hips happily around while in my birthday suit, I can spank myself on my dimpled and sagging ass and cheer wildly while I’m doing it. Like I said, major win.
It’s taken me a while to jump on the “I am more than my dress size” bandwagon, but now that I’m on the ride, I plan to never, ever get off. Why it took me so long to get here is beyond me, but I suspect it had something to do with years spent trying to live up to the unrealistic body images in the media that are incessantly shoved down every woman’s throat. Since the first time I picked up a Seventeen magazine in 1988 until very recently, I will admit to buying into the lies that say “Thinner is better, thinner is sexier, thinner is stronger, and thinner is what you need to be to be happy.” What a total crock of bullshit.
This body — this 44-year-old body? Let me tell you what this body can do, and I don’t give a shit that it’s not a size 4 anymore.
This body made four humans, one of whom is now 6 feet tall. And this belly — the one that didn’t snap back into a washboard after four babies, the one with the loose crooked skin hanging over C-section scars — sure it jiggles, but it does so with more joy behind it than Santa Claus’ belly. Pass the peppermint bark.
This body nourished those four babies with breasts I hardly recognize anymore, and which I can only describe as empty sock puppets. Yes, they are in desperate need of a bra with the strength to lift and separate all that which no longer faces up, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Can we go back to that part about my body making a beverage that sustained four humans? Because that is the bust I want the Victoria’s Secret bra section to celebrate.
These arms that still struggle with “girl” push-ups spent a decade securing 30-pound toddlers at my hips and heaving them in and out of car seats, cribs, and strollers. My biceps may not be sleeveless-ready anymore, but all the hugs these arms have wrapped around children make them more magazine cover-worthy than the empty lanky ones of 100-pound supermodels.
These curvy hips and thick thighs that need more coaxing than ever before to squeeze into jeans? The ones that rub together and chafe? It turns out they chafe when I run, and they have carried my body more miles than I can count over the last decade.
There is no denying my body shape is changing. Hey, it happens. And we’re told it’s gonna happen. “Oh, you’re in your 40s now? Just wait. Everything will start to fall apart, and you’ll never be able to lose weight again.”
Not only do I take offense to that, but I say who the hell cares?! Am I strong? Hell yes. Am I healthy overall? Sure am. Do I love it? Well, I love that I can play tennis with someone twice my age and half my age, and I don’t die in the process. I love that this body can still ride a bike with the zeal of an 8-year-old, can kick a soccer ball in the yard with my sons, and can jump off the high dive without hesitation. I love that it still turns my husband on, dances to rap music, and houses a mind that is able to give more to the world than a “perfect body” ever could. And I love that the heart on the inside pounds with more passion, love, and happiness than it ever did when it was in a smaller body.
This new body I am finding myself in love with — the one that no longer cares about being smaller and sexier — may be getting softer, wider, and slower, but ever since I started looking at it with gratitude, peace, and awe of all that it’s still able to do, I’ve realized it is actually all those things that make it infinitely more important than what it looks like.