My friend, Kristen, wrote a terrific blog post today that had me smiling, nodding my head and even laughing out loud. It was about her recent trip to the spa and how it had her baring more than her soul — a very uncomfortable prospect even for someone as fit and beautiful as she is. Read it here.
I had an experience that started out not unlike hers some years ago, while taking in a wonderful birthday gift at a spa upstate.
Naive and unschooled in the way of ladies’ locker rooms, I was unprepared for the full frontal … everything.
Unlike Kristen, I spent much of the day wrapped like a mummy in a plush robe and staring at my toes rather than risk eye contact with someone’s unmentionables.
I don’t think of myself as a prude, but even a bit of northern exposure was more than I could bare. (Yes, the pun is intended.)
Nursing an infant Catherine was like self-imposed exile — I could never feed her in public, not even under a blanket, which meant that as soon as I got somewhere, I pretty much had to leave.
And I remember distinctly a day at the YWCA in Greenwich — before they renovated the pool and created separate locker rooms for girls and women — taking a 5-year-old Catherine to swim lessons and coming around the corner to find a fully nude, very pregnant woman in the communal shower.
Catherine and I stood there gaping for a full minute before I collected my wits enough to pull her out onto the pool deck while muttering something about not staring.
Kristen’s post reminded me of that day and, like all insightful writing, got me thinking.
Much of the world’s greatest paintings, sculptures and poems are homages to the female shape, but day after day, unattainable images of “model” citizens assault our self-image.
I am as hung up about my body as most other women seem to be, even despite a set of good (albeit unknown) genes and a lot of exercise (and I won’t even open the door to discussing facial features).
Kristen will remember me well from my early days of Jazzercise: I generally wore oversized T-shirts and decade-old running pants, and hugged the south wall of the place for the entire class.
Somewhere along the line, however, I realized just what rewards all those chasses and lunges were reaping and I went out and bought a Lycra workout outfit.
I will never forget the first time I wore it to class. I felt a little like the “itsty-bitsy polka dot bikini” girl, but then Kristen noticed me from the stage with a sort of “wow” in her voice and it gave me a wonderful confidence boost.
These days, I’m on stage in those form-fitting outfits helping other women improve their fitness. I don’t think twice about getting up in front of everyone while wearing Spandex. Heck, I even bought a bikini to wear to the beach.
Still, I don’t see public nudity in my future.
Isn’t it a shame that we celebrate a woman’s body as a work of art — unless that body is ours?