(Image; Berlin Nude by Helmut Newton)
I remember one specific moment last year, standing in the bedroom, in matching lacy lingerie, and hating my reflection. I was scowling and pinching the extra bits of skin and fat that somehow just 'appeared'. What happened to my boobs? Why is my belly sagging over my jeans? Why does my neck look like melted turkey skin, and when did that eyelid get droopy?!?
Oh yeah. I had kids. And I'm old. I'm not that girl anymore. God damn it.
I was almost 40 years old, and I'd been married for 10 years now. I had a solid marriage, my man still thought I was the sexiest thing on the planet, I had 3 healthy kids and a good life. So why, why was I complaining? Why was I lamenting that I no longer fit into my size 6 dresses? Why do I need a shoehorn and vaseline to get into my jeans?
The reality is, that most women at a one point or another hate their body. They loathe it, they compare it, they want to starve it, cut it, change it, make it as good and tight as their pre-baby body on a beach. Or that girl they saw on Instagram the other day with the 30,000 followers. Before Instagram, it was a different kind of aspiration, more 'magazine-models' and 'celebrity diets', but ultimately the same. Before I had kids, I focused on what I looked like, how I could fit in with the theatre crowd that I worked with, how many men I could grab and how 'perfect' I could look in order to represent that 'cool girl' image. It took 20 hard years and 3 kids to finally figure out the most important four words that I never learned when I was young:
I am good enough.
Here I was, realising that my twenties, and thirties, were a blur of insecurities and awkward relationships. I didn't know who I was, what I wanted, what man I wanted to be with, and most importantly, how to treat my body well. It wasn't the best time in my life, as I had assumed it would be. I starved and purged and wasted my time having bad sex with people who didn't want me.
So, now that I was older, what did I want, exactly? Did I want to keep starving myself to fit into the latest skinny jeans that the stylists were filtering to death on magazines and smartphone screens? Did I want to be so self-conscious about my post-partum belly that I would only have sex lying down, or in the dark?
Now, I'll be honest, 40 wasn't the Magical Watershed Year that I started accepting myself and loving who I was and finding pleasure in every aspect of my life. I thought it would be. I thought I would be that 40-year old that didn't give a damn and walked around with fire-engine red hair and attitude to match. But actually, it was the beginning of this year, the year I would turn 41, that I realised that the more I embraced the sway of my hips as I walked, and the extra fat on my bum that my man grabbed deliciously; the more I said that I was worth the piece of cake if I wanted it, and worth more than whatever woman sneered at my attitude and judged my body..? The more I freed myself from the excruciating criticism of my past life.
I was worth that new lingerie in a bigger size.
I was worth more than sucking in my gut and cursing my non-existent waist to get into skinny jeans.
I was worth more than the comparisons to Insta-famous girls with perfect breasts and aquiline features that never seemed to eat more than a piece of celery for dinner.
I was worth the abandon of "yes, let's try this", instead of the inhibitive "no, not tonight because I feel like I'm too lumpy".
I was worth standing taller, and prouder, walking away from my own road to self-destruction (because I would have, absolutely, destroyed my spirit).
I have one life, and I choose to live it in the life of this girl, not 'that' girl. I am this girl. THIS girl. This girl, the one with the lines and scars and curves that lay more south than they used to. I'm the girl that likes chocolate cake, and great sex, and loud conversations and strong cocktails. I'm the girl that knows who I am now, not the girl that was lost in a sea of try-to-be-perfect.
Sure, it's not easy, and it can be a daily battle to try and be fearless... and that can only get easier with time and practice. But hey, the sex is wayyyyy more exciting, so I'll take it.