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Food for thought

More naked truths

All at once, body image issues are dogging me, mocking me, making me face the stark reality about my own hangups.

And like that first-morning look in the mirror, it ain’t pretty.

Turning 46 was like walking through an invisible curtain: Suddenly, there’s more gray and more wrinkles, more difficulty reading small type, more unexpected surges of body heat, and — depending on the day — more or less sleep. Apparently there’s no going back; I simply must learn to cope.

I’ve long preached moderation, making the best of what God gives you, aiming for healthy living. I believe that women should have curves and the female form is beautiful. (Well, any female form that isn’t mine.)

All this hit home earlier this week when I went for my first full-body skin cancer screening. It was long past due, and as I sat awkwardly in panties and a paper gown waiting for the doctor all I could think was, “RUN!”

I realized as the minutes ticked by that I wasn’t worried about wayward moles or the sun damage my fair skin incurred when I was young. The thoughts passing through my mind included:

“Does this paper gown make me look fat?”

“Did I miss any spots shaving?”

“I did remember deodorant, didn’t I?

“How do I suck my abs in through this whole exam?”

“Is there I way I can lie on the table that will minimize fine lines and wrinkles?”

“Do I really have to show her these breasts without the benefit of my age-defying lift bra?” 

In the end, of course, it was fine. I don’t know how the doctor could see through the beet-red color I adopted in defensive mode under that bright light, but she kept up a steady stream of conversation throughout the exam, and it was quickly over. Just two minor things to address — both on my feet oddly enough — but nothing to worry about.

As I quickly threw my clothes on again, I couldn’t help but think of my friend, Kristen’s recent trip to the spa and how she got up the gumption to go au naturel.

Over a scrumptious home-cooked Indian dinner recently, Kristen, Sandra, Beth and I laughed until we cried over Kristen’s vivid description of the day, how she started out employing “Jazz hands” to try to cover herself, how she wasn’t sure where to park her eyes or how to sit on the edge of the hot tub, how she marveled at the many other women who were perfectly at ease in their own skins.

Our sides aching from laughter, tears rolling down our cheeks, each of us had a different take on how we would handle the situation. Kristen said she was glad she did it. And while another of our group said she’d be perfectly happy to be liberated from clothing, the third swore she would never, ever unrobe in front of others.

At the time, I was on the fence, unable to decide what I might do in Kristen’s … um, shoes.

After this week, though, I think I have my answer.

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About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.

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