or Why I Go Crazy When You Grab The Covers
When I read yesterdays blog post, I was reminded again of what an incredible man I am going to marry. I wonder how I got so lucky to find someone who loves me this much, and who never lets an opportunity go by to remind me of that.
I also read the comments with great interest. Gadget and Scotty P have raised some interesting questions. I started to think about why women behave the way they do when it comes to being naked and sharing our bodies with our partners. It’s no great secret that not too many of us are strutting our stuff regularly in our homes, regardless of the time of day or the amount of light directly or indirectly hitting our naked selves. The truth is, we don’t like being naked. Well, that’s not entirely true. We like being naked…we just don’t like you to see it.
This leads us to the obvious question of: Why?
What has turned us in to an army of cover-clutching, darkness-loving paramours? We can revel in our bodies and our pleasure, but only if we are completely shrouded in blackness and your eyes have been gouged out. Men, being the somewhat straight-thinking creatures they are, seem baffled by our bizarre behaviour. They don’t understand that they are fighting a lifetime of not-so-mixed messages telling us that we are not achieving the ideal image of what a man wants to see in his bed.
It starts early on, in the toys we play with, and the shows we watch. Barbie had a waist so tiny, and breasts so large, it would be nearly impossible for her to walk upright if she was a real woman. As we grew up, we watched shows with lead characters with perfect, thin bodies, and clear, smooth skin. Girls whose biggest problem was which boy would take her to the school dance. Meanwhile back in reality, most of us were spending the 7 long minutes of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ holding up the gymnasium wall, diverting eye-contact and watching the early-bloomers getting hastily felt up on the dance floor.
We are assaulted daily with images of perfection from every corner, and we have been all of our lives. Nearly all of the images we see in the media portray the very small minority of women who have the ‘ideal’ proportions. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average U.S. woman is 5’4″ and weighs 152 pounds. The average working model is 5′ 10″ tall and weighs no more than 115lbs. You do the math. Someone has been fucking with our heads, and in the process, has sold us a boatload of garbage.
This got me thinking: Why do we hate ourselves so damn much?
I have an incredible group of friends. All of them are beautiful, interesting and intelligent. I say that without exception, by the way. Each of them has gifts and talents that impress me and make me proud to know them. And ALL of them fight with similar feelings of body shame. I wanted to get some more opinions on the subject, so I sent many of them a message asking them to share their thoughts on the subjects. Every one of them that sent me a reply did so without the veil of anonymity. I am assigning random initials to protect their identity, but here are some of their replies:
“When i look in the mirror, I truly hate what I see. I see the rolls, lumps, cellulite that have accumulated since the birth of my child, and honestly, before that even. I can’t imagine how anyone would find that acceptable, let alone attractive. It physically repulses me to look at my naked body.” ~E.E
“As someone who is transgender, body image is huge for me. It feels like I have parts I shouldn’t and parts I should have. My mind doesn’t match my body. And I know, from talking to other women, this is a common thing among all women. Not just transgendered. I am not ashamed of how my body looks. It just doesn’t match what I see in my head. I think the media is to blame for how women view themselves. A small percentage of women are held up to the world as the “norm.” When in reality, most women are, excuse my language, plus size. We as women need to ignore what the media tells. As long we are healthy and happy, what difference does it make how we look? ” ~V.A
“I know I’m not the smallest chick out there and I am a mother so yes, I have some battle scars. I have lots of friends, so I assume I’m a likeable person. It must be my body. It must be the way I look. All of my friends are either fit or just naturally thin, and they complain all the time about the parts of their body they hate. I wonder, if that’s how they feel about themselves, then they must think I’m one step short of having handlers. Compared to them, I’m the size of a Macy’s parade float! “ E.L
“Media. Be it- in print, or on the big screen.. Porn included.. For this I am affected. The typically man-pleasing porn often has “girls” and I mean girls that haven’t been blessed with child bearing hips, stretch marks and or c-section scars. This, when used for arousal, makes me feel somewhat inferior, as my breasts have not been inflated to work as a chin rest, nor can you count my ribs. However I am healthy. I work on my eating and exercise choices every day. The fact that men often resort to pleasing themselves with porn, or just using it as a means of warming up, makes me feel as though, “Okay…if that’s turning your crank, what in the world could you see in my curves, natural breasts and my collection of cellulite?” ~T.W.
I saw from their replies that I was not alone in my own struggle with poor body image. Every one of us has been raised in a different set of circumstances, and yet we all emerged into adulthood with the same general mindset: “My body is not good enough”. How incredibly sad is that?
Even the media that claims it is trying to change the terrible body image women have isn’t doing much better.
Really? *THIS* is average?
The women pictured have perfect proportions. There isn’t any visible cellulite and their skin is as smooth and inviting as any other fashion magazine model. Yes, they are physically heavier, but their proportions are perfection, and they also do not represent the ‘average’ woman. Even in trying to set the standard back to something more realistic, the result only further reinforces the ideal that my body, and most of the bodies of my friends, are not ‘up to snuff’ in the eyes of the collective public.
Luckily something magical happens in a woman’s life when she gets a bit older. She just stops giving a fuck.
You tell ’em, Julie…
It’s true…we really start to get it later in life. After spending a lifetime thinking that everyone else hates us as much as we do, we start to realize that we aren’t that bad. I’m not saying it’s an overnight transformation, but it happens. It starts slow. Maybe the soft lights get left on at bedtime, just to test the waters. If our mate doesn’t throw up at the sight of us, it’s a good sign. Maybe the things he’s been saying all these years might actually be true.
It has taken the unconditional love of another human being to help me start to see that much of my own problem with body image is largely ridiculous. It’s true that I love him with all of my heart, and every inch of him is dear to me. There is not one part of his body that I find repulsive or unattractive, so why should it be any different for him? I believe it is best said in the reply I received from one of my longest friends :
“Really, i think its WE women who make it something separate. Why should foreplay and sex be any different than holding hands in the car or hugging one another fully clothed? It’s an expression of love. When he holds my hand in the car I don’t wonder if he thinks my fingers are too chubby or too bony, or if my nails are too long or too short or ugly without polish. I don’t wonder if he is judging the dryness or texture of my hand… I don’t THINK about it! I don’t analyze it!!! I just enjoy that he likes holding my hand. I enjoy the masculine-ness of his hands and the sense of comfort, security, and being loved that comes with him reaching over to hold my hand, even on short drives, even after 22 years together. SO, why on earth should I feel ANY different about sex, foreplay or after play? I’m the same woman in the same body when I’m having sexual relations as when I’m in the car feeling so securely loved because my husband holds my hand. ”
So here’s the deal, boys.
Maybe your girl is still hiding in a shroud of covers at bedtime. Maybe you are still trying to convince her that what you see is as beautiful as you can imagine. Be patient, and keep it up. Only time, trust and tenderness will help her undo a lifetime of messages that have been making her feel less than perfect. What she wants is to be the most beautiful woman you have ever held. If you keep reminding her that she is, you will be paving over a road of insecurity with love and reassurance. Beauty is in our hearts and our minds as much as it is in our physical bodies. When love and trust mate, beautiful things can happen.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
(excerpt from ‘Phenomenal Woman’ by Maya Angelou)
It might seem as if women need to be hand-held and coddled like a child in this respect. Unfortunately that is the case. The strong, independent career woman you know and love, who can handle a full time job, children, the responsibilities of home and still manage to be ready to hit the sheets after a long day, has a huge achilles heel. She is afraid if you get a good look at her naked body, you will laugh, tease or even leave for someone ‘better’. We have come a long way, baby. By being a nurturing, loving partner in the bedroom, you can help us soar to heights we never dreamed of emotionally, as well as sexually.
Just grab a hold of my body and mind,