~ Jacqueline Bisset
In my late teens early 20’s, I was five feet, six inches tall, and about 125 pounds. I was so small I looked like Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl. Even pregnant when I was pregnant and carried my sons to full-term (twice), I never weighed over 140 pounds, and I always went right back to my same weight. No stretch marks. Nothing!
I was at one point a size 2, but eventually settled comfortably in a size 7/8 for more than 15 years.
I ate what I wanted, with no penalties. I was pretty fit. I worked in manufacturing during this time in my life, and I walked a lot for health and out of necessity (like when I didn’t have a car). I was picked at frequently because of my size by guys. I was I also picked at by women who thought I was too small. Although I was pretty comfortable in my skin, I was quite aware of my body and how other people made it my business to share their opinion of my body image.
As time went on and I began to age, my body changed. It’s almost as if my body transformed overnight beginning at around age 35.
I had some health issues which required four surgeries (fibroids and endometriosis). That began the once devastating body changes. Changes that I’ve now come to embrace and love. Changes like:
I used to be able to buy my bra and panty sets from the Family Dollar or Wally World. I could be two sets of panty and bras (34A & B cups) for $10-$12. Today, I spend $60-$90 for A SINGLE BRA………….
Let’s not even talk about swimsuit tops. I can’t buy anything off the shelf anymore. I have to special order plus sized swim tops. I’ve gone from a 34-A cup to a 40-C cup. Why in God’s name why? Hormones I guess. Could it be middle-age spread……. maybe?
I have a pooch now, because of the four surgeries to remove my fibroids tumors which in turn created scar tissue leaving my once flat belly “poochy”. Add in the stress of raising three sons, poor eating at times, the lack of exercise that came from changing careers (from manual labor to a cushion desk job) and you have a disaster. Add to that the disgust and sadness that comes with aging. The loss of my old figure at some point proved the days of old are gone bye-bye.
I would go to the beach and see all the PYTs (pretty young things) like I used to be. Taking selfies, posing for the awesomely vain head and body shots for their social media pages. Young ladies sashaying around in those gorgeous 2- piece swimsuits that I’d never get my butt into anymore. Sigh.
I felt youthful, so that wasn’t my issue. The disappointment in my body image was doing something to my psyche that I’ve never experienced before. That was the issue. Society (via the social media, television, magazines, music videos, fashion industries, sports, and food and drug companies) had conditioned my mind that I am never to get old, or gain weight, or experience life, or get gray hair. Getting old apparently meant you are dying, and we need to do everything we can to fight it. Even at the young age of 45.
At some point post 35-years old and fat society said I needed liposuction, hair extensions, loads of make-up, the hottest swimsuits. I needed a personal trainer, I needed to work out everyday and wear sexy workout clothes to prove to the world I am REALLY working out. I needed to become a vegan, cut out meat, stop drinking milk and eating cheese. I likely needed to move to someplace hip and trendy, spend money on clothes and shoes that are uncomfortable to appease people that don’t really like me.
I needed to read more articles to lose weight, diet, and exercise.
It was all so very depressing. Overwhelming actually!
All I know is that I thought my body had betrayed me. Or so I thought.
But one sunny day not long ago, I had a life-changing epiphany while sitting on the beach in Florida.
I chose to go to a different beach. It was a beach where there was a much older people than typically seen at beaches congregating. They were mostly retirees, but many were older vacationers from all over the world. There were two things that I noticed that were so awesomely striking to me on this life changing day.
The older people on this beach were enjoying life on their own terms. They were happy, and full of life. No one was posing taking selfies. They were well aware they weren’t young, and the reveled in the fact they had grown beyond the childish, superficial things society teaches us to pursue. The “beautiful people” (I like to call them) were sharing snacks, laughing, listening to music and enjoying their day. They were enjoying the moment. Maybe it was a moment they had paid their dues for. Maybe they were wealthy. Maybe they just knew where the fountain of life was. No matter what it was, they knew how to live.
It was apparent that close to 80 percent of the older people out on the beach on that day did not care about personal appearances. You can tell many of the women there were not ever swimsuit models. While dressed nicely, their bodies looked JUST LIKE MINES. They had signs of stretch marks, flabby arms. I saw back fat, and varicose veins. I saw big legs and small legs, pooches and beer guts. I saw big boobs and small boobs. There were pretty women, and average women. Thin women and plus sized sisters like me. I saw gray hair and dyed hair. They wore two pieces and 1 piece. I saw some fit and trim grandmas, and I saw some grandmas living their best lives eating and drinking whatever they wanted. All colors, all shapes, all sizes were on that beach. I saw real life. I saw friendships that had matured and that had learned the true meaning of life.
It was overwhelming. I just sat, silently soaking it in. It blessed my soul.
Whew hew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought to myself. I can age.
I learned that I can age and defy the age defiance trend.
No longer do I feel the need to compete with the next generation. Life has a lot of seasons and I am going to learn how to enjoy each and every one that Mother Nature allows me to have. Being youthful at heart, and looking youthful (within reason) is what I am shooting for now. I expect more wrinkles to come, along with the cellulite.
I am going to embrace my saggy breast, as they steadily seem like the wanna go down South. I look forward to more gray hairs.
I look forward to being kinder to myself. I have made a commitment to loving what I have, the way nature and life intended. I think I have solved this mid-life crisis of poor perception of my body image.
My simple advice:
Don’t compare youthfulness and getting old. They are not the same, not even close. Appreciate your youth, but value the wisdom that came from getting old.
Don’t listen to television and capitalistic programming that can taint your thoughts about your body image. These opportunistic vehicles put out images so that we can consume, and they can make money. The images the businesses feed us are not reality.
Changing for your body for your health is fantastic. Changing to keep with the trends or to get a suitor is a bad idea. Love you, so that someone else can. We teach people how to treat us.
Love yourself. It’s so easy to beat up yourself over how you look, what you have and don’t have, and what you used to be. Let it go. Live for today, because tomorrow isn’t promised.
Appreciate our differences! This is important. We can’t all be the same, and you should be glad about that. If we were, we would be robots. Our differences make us unique. Our differences give us something to work towards.
Love what you have. Love your body. Love your mind. Love your life. Too often we want to be what we see on television, in magazines, or runways, and in public life. A famous athlete, a reality TV star, a politician (although I don’t know why), or a singer. Just because we’ve been programmed to believe someone is beautiful on the outside, doesn’t mean they are so beautiful on the inside.
Some of the most beautiful people, are the ugliest people. Remember that. Just look at Hollywood, the music industry, heck even the Food Network. They act ugly, and people generally tend to dislike these people. Character will outlast beauty for most of us. Work on your character. It could very well open doors that your beauty cannot.
Befriend like-minded people. Surround yourself with good people who love you just the way you are. Eliminate people who aren’t going in the same direction you are. If they are judgemental and super health conscious which has caused the relationship to be uncomfortable, protect you. Back away and spend less time with these people. Be around people that make you happy, love you for you, and beat to the same drum that you do. We are stressed enough with our jobs, family, bills, our health, etc. to deal with crazy friends! Honest friendships are so valuable, especially at this age. Free your mind!
Truth is the only thing immortal and perpetual, and it gives us to a beauty that fades not away in time. ~ Frank Norris
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my work. Please feel free to share.