In Which I Hang Up My Hangups And Let It All Hang Out
You might think, having lost 75 lbs, that I would be pleased with my body. And I am. I am very pleased with the way my body performs. My heart and lungs and muscles are strong. I can do things I never thought I would be able to do. I can say with confidence that I am fit and healthy. But I do not find my body aesthetically pleasing...unless it is clothed. Then I can push up, suck in, and smooth out anything that bothers me. I can create the illusion of perfection when I am covered.
And perhaps that's the problem with nakedness. I'm very much a perfectionist you see, which affects every aspect of my life. Though this is not something I have chosen for myself, I am able to see that in some ways, it's a good thing. When I write, when I work, when I exercise, when I set goals...perfectionism serves me very well. But it can also lead to feelings of chronic failure when I cannot live up to my own expectations and ideals. And my poor body is destined to ever disappoint me because it will never be perfect. Rationally of course, I know that nobody's body is perfect. And I have looked at many imperfect bodies and found them perfectly lovely anyway. I just have a hard time seeing the beauty in my own imperfection.
Such was the case today.
A friend from high school is visiting Atlanta and wanted to meet up, which is a novel thing for me. Living 900 miles away from my home town, I rarely get an opportunity to connect with childhood chums. Even when I'm home, I never see anybody. Or maybe, more accurately, I never recognize anybody. So I was thrilled, naturally. This gal was someone I didn't appreciate enough in high school for all her wonderful uniqueness. She didn't fit the mold. Neither did I, but that certainly didn't prevent me from trying, because I didn't appreciate my own uniqueness either. If I hadn't been trying so hard to jam myself into that stupid, douchey, teenaged mold, I might have realized that she was the kind of person I should have been cultivating a relationship with.
How sad that we don't figure these things out until adulthood.
Anyway, having reconnected on Facebook and realized that our lives had been interestingly, even eerily similar, and having been reminded just how awesomely intelligent and genuine she is, I jumped at the chance to reconnect in person. She is staying with another friend here in Atlanta, someone I had not met before today. The two of them decided they wanted to visit a local spa and invited me to join them, and even, graciously, offered to foot the bill, since our funds are so tight at the moment.
We met at the spa, checked in, and entered the ladies locker room where I was immediately confronted by lots and lots of nakedness in all shapes, colors, and sizes. I couldn't look, I couldn't not look. The two gals I was with blithely disrobed while I stood there, paralyzed. All I could think about were the stretchmarks, the sags and bags, the cellulite, the mudflaps, the batwings.....I began to hyperventilate just a little.
But then I realized I had a decision to make. I could obsess over my imperfections and let it ruin what promised to be a perfectly lovely experience, or....just let it go. I was free to choose. And I chose to let it go.
Was it easy? No. I cannot even tell you how exposed and vulnerable I felt walking around with nothing to cover up my imperfections and the tales they told. But I did it. And though I won't say it ever became exactly comfortable, I will say that I did manage to push the discomfort to the back of my mind and focus on the experiences. Once, this would have been impossible for me. So the whole thing left me feeling strangely empowered.
I can choose to let my hangups get the better of me, or I can choose to divorce myself from them long enough to do and see and experience some really awesome things. I'm aware that we may reconcile at some point in the future. I think it would take something much more...clinical, than a trip to the spa to cure me of all my neuroses. But it's a step. And a big one. I felt kind of smug about it, truth be told.
So now I must tell you about the highlight of this visit: A Korean specialty that is called a "hip bath" but does not involve hips or baths. It is meant to promote fertility, prevent diseases of the female organs, both internal and external, detoxify and....tighten. Yes, tighten.
We entered a small and incredibly aromatic little chamber where a row of stools lined one wall. The stools each had a hole in the center and a large bowl of herbs tucked beneath. We sat naked upon the stools, giggling self-consciously, and adjusting ourselves so that the proper parts were in alignment with the opening in the stool. The technician placed our feet on wooden blocks, further um...opening the desired areas. I sort of felt like I should prepare myself to bear down, so weirdly primal was it, sitting like that. Then we were fitted with large rubber capes, which the technician draped across our knees while she lit the herbs beneath us.
Yes, that's right. She set them on fire. Beneath my vagina.
Then she pulled the cape down, creating a tent clearly intended to smoke our lady parts like herring.
It wasn't long before I began to feel very, very warm down there. And moist. But tight? Eh. I clenched periodically, testing, but was unable to discern any tightening effect. But who knows? The conversation was lively and varied. Before long, an older lady joined us and commented occasionally on our banter. Soon the conversation turned to the nakedness issue, prompted by the sight of two nubile young girls, easily the most firm, smooth, and umblemished bodies in evidence....covered by bathing suits.
I had seen bodies of many shapes, sizes and colors throughout the day. All of them had something of value to offer the eyes. One lady I saw was quite portly. She was a classic "apple", with a round belly and a small, compact little behind. And she had the most amazingly beautiful skin I had ever seen. Not a blemish, pore or stretchmark in sight. Just a smooth, silky expanse of skin that glowed like hand rubbed mahogany. I saw many older women with a bit of sag in the bottom, the belly, the breast; some wrinkling at knee and elbow. And yet the feminine curves and planes were still very much in evidence and still visually pleasing. Beautiful. And yes...sexy.
With her eyes upon those young girls, the older woman remarked, "Isn't it a shame that it takes so long for women realize that all of us are so very beautiful?"
It is. It really, really is.