A few years ago, after recovering from a nasty stomach bug, I was leaning over the laundry basket digging for some clean clothes. Naked. My daughter, who couldn’t have been more than seven at the time, stopped as she was walking by. She stood there watching me and then inquired in that innocent way that all kids do, “Mommy, why are your boobies so loooong?” I think I was a little stunned at first. And then I almost fell over laughing. My stomach hurt from days of vomiting but I couldn’t stop myself from the deep belly laughs. There’s nothing like being completely humbled by raw honesty.
I vaguely remember trying to explain things about gravity, nursing three children for over five years, being sick and dehydrated and all sorts of rational things that were beyond her years. I’m pretty sure she got the breast feeding piece because her brother had recently been weaned and we joked about having the fat sucked out of me. She got a kick out of it all. I did too.
Despite our jovial conversation, I have to confess that I later found myself in this peculiar pretzel type position, trying to look at my breasts from my daughter’s perspective. Proving fruitless, I ended up in front of our downstair’s bathroom mirror, standing on the rim of our tub, bending over, torquing my neck and studying my breasts. Trying to capture the exact stance my daughter had witnessed. Sure enough, she was right. My boobies were quite long. I could have hung on to this and allowed myself to feel like a wretched human being with the world’s worst breasts ever. But for whatever reason, on that day, I didn’t.
Being a swimmer, I have the … opportunity(?) to see lots of people in all shapes, sizes and ages … naked. Not that I’m some sort of a weirdo gawker or anything. It just sort of comes with the territory. Unfortunately for you, I’m not an artist or musician — I’m an athlete so most of my analogies are congested with references to sports. And bodies. And I guess being naked. Which actually serves us well because I really am trying to live life from an open, honest, naked standpoint.
I’m usually at the pool by mid-afternoon. I swim after working in the morning and before my children get home from school. This also happens to be the same time of day when the aqua aerobic ladies are finishing their class. These women are the highlight of my day!
These ladies croon over each other. They remember each other’s grandchildren’s birthdays. Heck, they remember the great grand children too. The also remember to ask the hard questions — how someone’s spouse is fairing, about a friend’s recent bout in the hospital, about a dear one’s passing. They take time to thoughtfully express their concerns and support when they hear of life’s hardships as well as life’s joys. These women hold a space for whatever comes up in their conversations. They don’t miss a beat. Although they do often miss a bra strap. Or get tangled in their underwear. Sometimes they’ll sit for the duration of my shower (and by now you know I take a long shower!) or usually longer.
Often their naked bottoms will be spread out on the benches while their aqua shoes are still on. Half undressed? Half dressed? I’m not sure. But they sit and they stand and they bend and maneuver and more often than not they’re helping each other pull off their tangled suits and strap up each other’s bras. These ladies love each other like siblings and they don’t give a damn if they’re naked or not. I don’t think they even notice.
Occasionally a newcomer will join the class. As the class ends, she’ll exit the pool behind the group and attempt to inconspicuously enter the locker room fray. She’ll be covered in towels and sometimes donning a robe. The veterans take notice of her out of the corner of their smiling eyes. They keep chatting, their voices rising and falling between laughter and sorrows. They pay attention without being obvious. Eventually the rookie will either look up, baffled with the locker key code or confused about where the toilets are, and they’re ready to help.
The veterans jump in to assist. Directing. Pointing. Guiding. Within minutes the novice has been swooped into the group like a long lost friend. Mind you she’ll probably keep her body covered for a few weeks longer, but eventually her inhibitions will pass and with this progression she’ll acquire an ease about her that she didn’t have before. She’s a part of them — she’s one of them. Her eyes will shine more brightly after the locker room session than they did after the aqua class. Her face glows radiant from being held by these women, not from the exertion of the class.
Each day after my swim I witness this remarkable camaraderie among naked women who truly don’t pay any mind to their nakedness. They come in all shapes and sizes and when I say all, I mean all. And with that there is one thing I can say for certain — no matter how tall, how short, how round or how thin — every single one of these ladies bottoms sag. They do. I can tell you something else — it’s not just the grannies whose asses sag. All bums sag. And if yours hasn’t yet, it will eventually. Period.
With that, I ask you this: Why not get out of our own way and put our energy and intention towards loving ourselves and the people around us like those wise naked aqua aerobics ladies do? They are sassy old birds who know a thing or two about life. Instead of bemoaning their loss of dexterity or berating themselves for getting their undies on backwards, or inside out — or both — there’s no recognition of their mishaps. Perhaps they notice but they aren’t caught-up in their imperfections. If they were, that locker room would be dry and dull and cold. Their laughing voices would be stifled by heads bent down and towels wrapped over bodies hiding themselves and I imagine the group would be small and piecemeal — a scattering of lonely hearts but not a community.
What I really get to be a part of in the locker room every week, is an honest glimpse of what truly matters in life. Being together. Helping each other out. Loving oneself enough to know that no one around really cares if we’re saggy and droopy and physically failing. Just like my daughter saw me. Long boobies or not, I’m her momma and she loves me. All of me. She was curious about my breasts — heck I am too — and it left her with something to wonder about, but not something to judge or criticize. And I think the pivotal piece of our exchange is that I didn’t criticize myself in front of my daughter.
What matters is that we see each other. That I see you in your entirety. And that I see and accept myself too. With our shortcomings and vulnerabilities. With our undies twisted at our ankles and our bras put on inside out. We are all just human trying to connect in a world that is becoming more and more isolating. To top it off we have an airbrushed culture that motivates us towards self-contempt and loneliness instead of being real together. Instead of being present.
I don’t want to focus on the negative aspects of myself and I don’t want you to harp on yours. I want to sit in your company, to be with you and enjoy a cup of coffee. I want to hear your joys and your sorrows. I want to be able to be real with you and honest with myself. Maybe I’m sad that my body is failing. Maybe it concerns me that my mind isn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be. Maybe those pesky wrinkles around my eyes still make me crazy, but if I don’t look up and see you, I will never see myself either. Life is too short to spend blanketed in not-good-enough-ness.
Your ass is going to sag. Heck it already is. Mine is too. But take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone and find courage to step out of yourself and connect with people. We need this. We need to be together to truly see ourselves. Even if our boobies are sooo loooong. Even if you’re a man with moobs. So be it. They are what they are. I’m okay with that.
If we spend every minute of every day hating ourselves, we’re going to get caught in our own twisted underwear. In our own tangled thoughts without a kindred hand to unwind us from our own entanglement. We could get completely caught up in the self-loathing, the not good enough-ness, the depreciation, the worthlessness and the comparisons. The only thing we get from that — from all of that negative chatter — is missing out on so much living.
Stop wasting time. Love the ass you’ve got. Just let go of the baggage. Your tush is eventually going to let go anyway. It’s going to be little baggy. Why not just appreciate it for what it is right now. Let’s love ourselves today because today we’re already perfect just the way we are. If you don’t think so, come and see me in 10 years and you can tell me otherwise.
Take good care!