When do the delicious folds of baby fat become judgment ridden cues for self-deprecation?
My early memories of being told to cover my body are still vivid; the “hide your nakedness” message clearly left a lasting impression on me.
As a small child I vigilantly followed parental instructions.
Must cover myself.
In the locker room seeing a variety of inhibition and disinhibition I was, foremost, covering myself.
Forever embarrassed to show my naked body. (Must cover myself.)
Not looking like the models in the ads. (Must cover myself.)
Fearing being made fun of. (Must cover myself.)
There was the one time at university in the wee hours of the morning we packed a carload of people and drove out to one of the surrounding lakes.
In the dark.
Mixed company, mind you.
In my mind I was embarrassingly attempting to cover myself the entire time, although not wanting to usurp my fleeting sense of being hip, I kept my hands at my side. And no, I did not enjoy it.
Wait. I lie. I fully enjoyed been immersed and feeling the water caress my nakedness as I floated through the starless pitch black.
And yes, as an exhausted multi-tasking parent living on a lake, there were more than a few times my partner and I skinny-dipped.
In the dark.
One eye fully opened and casing the surrounds at all times.
Now I live in a land more free with their nakedness than I have previously seen in my life.
One of my free-spirited BFFs frequently speaks of being at a beach, unable to resist the urge to rip her clothes off and let mother-ocean’s slippery fingers gently rock her like a baby. And I imagine most of my other feral friends here in New Zealand would have no qualms about stripping to their core if the cause was right.
I love living in a land where people can be seen openly changing into their “swimming costumes” on or near the beach. No biggie.
Where many delightful folds may be seen leaning over a teeny weeny bikini and no one gives a second look or a single damn.
Where someone might also swim fully clothed because that is their choice and why in the world would we question their choice?
And where people aren’t routinely leering over women’s varying amounts of exposed skin—or lack thereof.
I’m loving this respite from society breathing its steamy, judgmental breath and chanting about what we “should” look like. I’m loving that there seems to be a new generational trend busting commercialism’s wily advertising ways and more and more people are seeing through the ploy: to take as much money as the consumer will give—all under the guise of attempting to look “better.”
Baby, you look fine just the way you are—whatever shape or size you are.
Hey you out there reading this, not yet sliding down the slope of mid-life—don’t be like me. Let go of self-judgment and accept your bony knots or doughy bits that define that gorgeous body of yours.
Let’s put our money down and hold our heads up.
Forget about chasing any airbrushed “better.”
Throw those clothes into the wind.
Jump into those waves.
And just maybe I’ll see you there. (Eyes averted of course—old habits die hard.)
* I read this elephant journal author’s sweet poem reminding me of so many of my lovely New Zealand friends and it was responsible for getting my naked writing wheels turning this morning.
Author: Becky Aud-Jennison
Editor: Catherine Monkman