I spent a lot of time at a lot of beaches this summer, across Northern / Southern / Eastern Ontario. I spent some time in and around a few different pools, too, between an outdoor AquaFit class, and a water spa in Toronto. And do you know what struck me at every beach I went to, every pool I jumped in?
Women’s bodies did not look like “they’re supposed to.” And what I mean by that, as someone who is still somehow in the process of getting to know her post baby body, a full five years later, the bodies I saw everywhere I went looked nothing like the bodies I’ve been told mine should look like.
They were soft, squishy, doughy, curvy, dimpled, plump, roll-y, a little jiggly in places, and highly touchable, like you want to be folded into arms next to them. They were heavy on the top, narrow in the middle. Narrow on the top, and heavy in the middle. They were long and short, thicker or thinner, and in the shapes of apples, peaches, pears, and plums. The bodies I saw were young and old, and mostly somewhere in between. They wore bathing suits, bikinis, and sometimes nothing at all, and the most beautiful of all bodies wore things that exuded confidence in who that exact woman was in that exact moment.
And they were (mostly) all like that. Everywhere I went.
It struck me that my body is soft and curvy; long and lean in some places, plump and doughy in others, and feels best when dressed in whatever it is that makes me feel like me. And while sometimes that is a tutu and a top knot, sometimes it is graphic sweat-shirts and cutoffs, sometimes it is the juxtaposition of men’s glasses and impossibly tall heels that bump my already tall height to over 6″, you had better believe that sometimes that is simply Chanel Mademoiselle, and sometimes even less.
Really, my body is exactly as it is “supposed to” look, because it is mine, and mine alone. It has stories to tell of love and loss, growth and change, life, and sadly, death. Somehow, even as a confident, grounded, rational, and kinda intelligent woman, I lost sight of the fact that THIS is what a body looks like.
I started paying more attention to old artwork, old imagery, and saw more and more that these bodies too were pillowy and cloud-like, and then I started to wonder what the hell happened to our story telling. What the hell happened to the truth getting transformed into something you could order now for the low low price of eternal inadequacy, and the constant quest to be better. What the hell were we thinking when we let ourselves get wrapped up in a narrative that is so blatantly false, it all but comes with a neon dollar sign.
I started to think about other aspects of our lives, and where we draw our information and examples from that help shape – and in often cases straight up create – our reality.
We see perfect bodies in magazines. We see perfect little families with all their parenting shit and anxieties figured out with just a few laughs out on a tiny screen in 22 minutes or less. We see perfect couples with wildly romantic togetherness that seems to never end, if only for two hours. And we see some truisms sneak into those exact media outlets with quotes from Don Draper like “what you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”
We start to wake up from a dream that we’ve been sold, and have bought – or at least have strived to buy – and you know what? I think I’m over it.
Do not mistake this for nihilism, cynicism, skepticism, or any other ism, for that matter, nor is this a campaign to “blame the media;” I am a staunch believer in love, family, self, growth, and development, and an active consumer of and participant in print, online, and social media. And although I may be the only person in North America not watching Game of Thrones these days, I do love a good binge sesh on Netflix, the over exposed images on Instagram, and the delight of magazine pages on my finger tips. Please read these words through the simple and complex context that you alone are enough.
Your body, your family, your relationship: all of it is what it is. If “what it is” doesn’t feel healthy, by all means, chaaaange it. But if what it is feels right and true and good to you, then don’t let the expectations of someone selling a dream and a bottom line change the shape of your bottom or any of your curvy lines.
As tens of thousands of kids go back to school next week and start to write “what I learned on my summer vacation” across the top of the three hole punched page, I will tell you that what I learned this summer is that I’m going to stop buying what they’re selling, and start living right here, right now, for my family and for me.