Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Heat Wave: Body Image Blues and Canada Day Courage

Top and earrings from Jean Queen; Shorts (which were jeans): Reitmans; Sandals: Wonders; Sunglasses: thrift
It was Canada Day, and, more relevant to my story, the middle of a heat wave, when I found myself doing a very very brave thing.

I exposed a great deal of my body -- in public.

I just walked into the lake dressed like this, dunked a few times, and then sprawled out in the shade, hoping not to dry too quickly. Thus the wet spot under my head. And, yes, that pillow under my knees is yet another one of back injury aids.

As some of you already know, I HATE the heat. I think my lily white skin provides most of the explanation for this. And my hair was red when I was a child (and still is in some light). I was not designed for the heat.

And this was the kind of day when even people who like the sun were suffering, so you can imagine how I felt.

Yes, this park really is right in the centre of the city. In fact, it's in what used to be a quite poor and rough neighbourhood (still is in some pockets). I love my city!

It seemed like the whole world and their dogs had come to this park and planted themselves there for the Canada Day long weekend.

I'd been there the day before, wearing Beau's too-long shorts, a tank top covering my belly, and an under wire bra that was far from comfortable in the heat. I was too insecure to actually be comfortable. After all, my body is not Perfect.

But I looked around and was particularly inspired by a woman who was quite a bit bigger than me and had quite a bit more cellulite, who was wearing a bikini. Not only did she look fine. She looked good. Everywhere I turned, there were men and women with perfectly ordinary bodies, comfortable in their own skin, and hiding nothing.

This shirt is from the gym I went to for years and years before my back gave out from a childhood injury (caused by child abuse).
So the next day I got all brave, and, I'll admit, desperate in the heat. I nipped into a local clothing store, and found a nice little -- very little -- tube top. It was only later that I realized it was perfect for Canada Day, red and white being the colours on our flag.

I went home, found an old pair of jeans, ruthlessly cut off the legs, threw on a ragged old shirt, braided my hair for coolness, and took off to meet Beau and his two boys in the park.

Screw the heat! It was too damned hot to care anymore about modesty and looking good.

Of course, actually, I did care a little. I did have a certain pin up, country girl look in the back of my mind.

Braids? Cutoffs? Polka dots? All I needed was a sheaf of straw between my teeth. Done.

I was a little bit 50s pin up and a little bit Daisy Duke, and whole lot just plain me.

I'm pretty sure it was Miss Daisy who prompted me to tie the shirt at my waist. I always say that a curvy gal's best asset is her waist. It's a shame to hide it.

But mostly I was a pin up country girl today...

... lounging by the lake...


... splish splashing...

... and posing daintily for the camera.

Except, I'm not a pin up girl at all.

I'm a 42 year old woman who was once very fit but became crippled with a back injury five years ago and has lost the physique of which she was so proud. I had the rock hard abs. I had the perfect muscle tone. I had the super slim body.

And then it was all gone.

I never made a choice to let up on the exercise. I never made a choice to eat more and give up on being slim. I became crippled. I was bed-ridden. I lost the muscle. I gained the fat. And there wasn't a god damned thing I could to about it.

When I look at these photos of myself, the best I can do is say, "I look fine. My body is fine."

At worst, I think, "How can Beau possibly love me when I look like this?"

Yeah, I've got boobs now. That's the one thing about gaining weight that I do like. I've gone from a small B to about a D. I've also never had kids, so have never nursed, so my breasts are... young looking. So, yeah, I think my new breasts are pretty great.

And I do like how firm my body has remained, given my limited ability to be active and exercise. I come from good, mesomorphic, Eastern European, Jewish stock. My father is in his 70s and all my friends exclaim about how muscular he is.

But mostly I have a very hard time being okay with my body as it looks now. When I look in the mirror, I don't see whatever it is Beau sees when he tells me I'm pretty and that my body is beautiful.

And he does tell me -- a lot. The crazy boy seems to love me or something.

P.S. How cute is that little girl on the right? She and her sister wore very similar, dear little outfits. I had a skirt just like that when I was little. I loved it.

But I love him too, and I love his body. In this photo, I love his broad shoulders and narrow waist. I love his long arms and long legs. I love knowing how it feels to hold him, and knowing how gentle he is with my own battered body.

And I love that I know what he's doing with his body: walking down to the water to talk to his kids (who live with him) and make sure that they stay hydrated.

Because here's the thing: Beau's body isn't perfect either. After years of being ill and too thin, he's finally able to put on weight and now has a little belly. He has an ostomy (which is why he's no longer sick). His beard's going gray, something that causes me no concern, though I freak when I find another gray in my own hair. My goodness, sometimes he even, gasp, gets a pimple!

Yet his body is a delight to me. Nothing can give my soul peace like being in his arms. He's sexy. He's goofy. He's brilliant. He's comforting. He's Beau.

Loving a person, even loving his or her body, is not about loving physical perfection. It's about loving the whole person, body included.

So maybe he loves my body because it's my body. It's me

(And, on lighter note, just as an aside, let's get a closer look at what my hair does in the humidity. I love my hair, but really, this was crazy. My Jewfro reached uncontrollable proportions, rising high, reaching toward the heavens and toward the walls, and forming little ringlets on my neck. 

I wore a headscarf the next day and looked super Jewish. Post to follow.)

And, oh my God, my body actually works a little bit again. It will never be normal again. I'll probably always suffer from pain, if not every day, then often. But I am better than I was, a lot better.

If Beau and I are going to do any comparing of my body now to my body as it once was, that's the comparing we should do: my body when I could not lift a coffee cup or walk a block, and my body now, functioning. Size should not be the issue.

In the end, bodies are not the point. We love each other with our bodies, but love is about much more than bodies. Finding someone beautiful is about much more than what's on the surface.

It's about personalities, and style, and brains, and souls, and interests, and morals, and all the millions of little things that make a good match.

And we seem to be a good match. Everybody says so.

(I want to thank style blogger Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen for giving me the courage to make this post. I had no intention of photographing myself on this day, but I thought about her recent post about wearing a bathing suit, and how moved I was by it, and I decided to be brave too. I've also linked this up to Visible Mondays over at Not Dead Yet, and Spy Girl too, because I suspect a lot of people could relate to this topic.)



  1. Jewfro? LMAO!
    Sweetie, you look terrific. I would get arrested if I tried to wear that tube top. I was a D cup when I was 20! Enjoy, and flaunt, that little alabaster body of yours ;-)


  2. "Alabaster." Oooh, I like that. I'm quite sure it's been used in older poetry. I'm going to go with that. Even I was astonished to see how white I am in these photos.

  3. Bravo! You look terrific! I am finally coming to terms that I will never be the size 4 I was in my early 30's. I wear a size 12 and this seems to be my body's happy size. I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight. I have added exercise back just to keep healthy. Great photos. I love the whole pin-up girl look you have going on!

    Barbara @

  4. What a wonderful article about self-acceptance and joy. Thanks for sharing this with Visible Monday. And I think you look fabulous, as does your man!

  5. Yes ... got the whole pin-up thing down like a pro. Nice, liberating idea just to put on some skimpies and jump in the lake. Proud of you, and you look great. So glad you had a nice day.

  6. You powerhouse you! I smiled, I cried, I smiled again. Your writing is great.
    Thanks for linking up with my dot party!

    1. Aw gee, thanks. I'd forgotten about these dots. If I wrote this one again, I'd be more explicit about how I became disabled but I wasn't yet ready to do that when I wrote it.

  7. I might one day have the courage to do something like this but I have too much body hatred just yet.