My friend Katherine was on her annual Cape May family vacation. Everyone had already left the house for the beach, but Katherine was standing in front of the mirror crying. There was no way she was going out there in a bathing suit, not even shorts and a t-shirt would do.
She just couldn’t take the body she saw in the mirror to the beach.
Kate is tall, blonde, slim, and graceful. Her hair flows down to her bum. She channels other eras. She adores the fashion and rock icon, Anita Pallenberg. (She is also one of the most romantic and kind people I have ever met.)
Kate half-pulled it together, put on a long skirt and shirt in the Boho style she does so well, and left for the beach. She was walking down the boardwalk, when a couple coming towards her stopped in awe, and said to her “you look like a mermaid.” As Kate might say, “lesson learned.”
As I’ve told you before, these days I’m seeing a lot of women dressing and undressing, trying on clothes, and looking at themselves in the mirror.
The precision with which they dissect and then scrutinize their bodies is painful to see.
It goes like this. While making comments about what does and doesn’t flatter them, they pick a number of garments, and reluctantly enter the dreaded dressing room. Sooner or later, most of them push the curtain aside and do one of two things: stand their for an opinion from me, or go to the three-way mirror for an opinion from it.
At the mirror, they run their hands over various parts of their body and say “I don’t know, the lumps and bumps.” Depending upon the woman, I then agree, sigh, or say oy. I have also asked “what are you talking about?”
Yes, you have lumps and bumps, you’re a woman!
When we talk a little bit more, the women always agree with me that when it comes to our appearance, we are relentlessly self-critical, to the point of it being harmful.
These are educated, accomplished, worldly women. Some are fat, some are thin, some are what is currently called “smoking hot.” And they are all relentlessly self-critical. I wonder what would happen if I were to question their intelligence or critique their accomplishments the way they allow me—expect me even—to critique their appearance.
There are times when a woman simply does not look good in a garment. The garment doesn’t enhance anything, it accentuates some part of a woman’s body she’d rather not accentuate. I’ve never said we should go out into the world mindlessly putting our “lovely lady lumps” on display. I believe in the mindful display of them!
Ideas about fashion, style, and beauty are worthy of attention and even scrutiny, but scrutinizing our own and other women’s bodies, like chunks of meat, undermines serious conversation. One part of you doesn’t define you or your beauty.
If you really think that your belly negates the beauty of yourself as a whole, you’re crazy.
You’re not seeing the mermaid…