Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pool Reverie or Why Hollywood Sucks

We have been spending a lot of time at the pool this summer. It seems to be the only place where the kids are almost always happy and agreeable with very little work on my part. Plus, I often run into friends and acquaintances, so there is the added bonus of adult conversation. It has been my saving grace!

There is a downside, however, and that would be pool attire. I do not like bathing suits. More specifically, I do not like bathing suits on MY body. I typically feel fat and frumpy and matronly, even though my suit is relatively cute. So, I have decided to work on my body issues and stop criticizing myself. This proved especially difficult when I ran into a woman I know who is so pretty and probably a size 4 or 6 (even after birthing 5 children). Despite how pretty and skinny she is, she spent the whole conversation lamenting her inability to wear a bikini, because in her words, since having kids, her body has just not been the same and she can't seem to lose her belly.

At first this conversation made me feel really uncomfortable. After all, I am nowhere near a size 6, and frankly, never have been. So if she thinks SHE'S fat, what does she think of me? Then, I got annoyed because I felt she should have been a bit more sensitive to my body issues. Finally, I started to just feel sorry for her and for all of us who are so darned critical of our bodies and looks. I don't know a single woman who doesn't have body or looks hang-ups, yet these friends of mine are all beautiful (I am talking about you!!).

Yesterday while at the pool I took a good look around me. At first I was just noticing the kids. Then, I began to see the women. There were women of all ages and shapes and sizes. One was pregnant, another had bad varicose veins on her legs. None of them were perfect, at least not by Hollywood standards. One woman had very curvy hips, while another had a pretty flat chest; there were little and big rolls of extra flesh everywhere I looked.

This time I spent observing led me to two small epiphanies. First, the look that Hollywood promotes doesn't really exist, at least not on 98% of the population. And second, the more I looked at the people at the pool, the more I realized that what they probably perceived as their flaws, were actually beautiful and made them unique. I know these are not earth-shattering discoveries, but it is the first time I really began to see imperfect bodies as beautiful. I guess this is because for most of my life I have been so critical of my own body, I couldn't ever imagine someone finding me attractive despite my flaws.

Next, I looked at my beautiful daughter who was joyfully enjoying the water. Her swimsuit clung to her chubby belly and her face was lit up in a smile. She flailed in the water, jumping and splashing about, never once wondering if she looked fat or clumsy. She didn't even notice her legs except in experimenting with what they could do for her. This sight just renewed my desire and comitment to work on my body issues so that I don't pass on my neuroses to Charlotte. Wouldn't it be great if I could teach her to be grateful for what her body could do instead of obsessing over how it looked?

1 comment:

Amy Jane said...

Patty,

Another beautiful, well-written post. And it's so true - no one, and I mean NO ONE, is more critical of a person's body than that person. Every woman I know laments her "problem areas," no matter how great I think they look. Talking to different women at my gym, it's the same story. Women whose bodies I admire always have things that they hate about themselves. But when I start to talk about the areas I dislike about my own body, they tell me that I'm crazy, just as I tell them that they're crazy to be worried about their own bodies! It has been something of a revelation to me, too, and it has made me realize that even the skinniest, hottest woman in the world is going to complain about something. Heck - when I was in high school and weighed 125 lbs. with a 26" waist, I thought I was fat! Now, I look back and feel such pity for that girl - she didn't even know how good she had it. I'm glad that you're starting to see this and realizing that your own body just might not be as hideous as you think. :) It's a lesson that I wish every woman would learn. And Charlotte is going to be at such an advantage, having a mom who helps her appreciate her miraculous body instead of obsessing over perceived flaws!