Naked, I stood at the closet doors with the lights on and made myself ready. I took a deep breath and positioned the mirrors so I could see all of me. I consciously worked to remove my self-believed inner image. I opened my eyes and looked very carefully at my body. And my heart lurched at the truth: I am not a young woman anymore. I am a woman well-lived. My body tells of all the years she has carried my spirit through life.I am a 59-year-old woman in great health and in good physical shape. I stand five-feet, nine-inches tall and weigh 135 pounds. I wear a size six in both jeans and panties, and my breasts are nowhere near my navel. In fact, they still struggle to make it full-up in a B-cup bra. My thighs are no longer velvet and my buttocks have dimples. My upper arms wobble a bit and my skin shows the marks of the sun. There is a softness around my waist that is no longer perfectly taut, and the pout of my abdomen attests to a c-section that took its bikini flatness — but gave me a son.
Why this brutal scrutiny of myself? It was time to counter the damage of my culture, my own soft-held fear and to pour warm love on my own soul. It was time to claim every mark and not-perfect inch of my own body — a body that had been called “too wrinkled” by a man who was fetched by my energy and my mind, but did not like the bare truth of me. His name was Dave and he was 55 years old.
We met on a dating site. Dave was interesting, gentlemanly and bright. He held my hand and toured with me on long bicycle rides. He drove many miles to come to my door. He made meals for us both and ruffled my dog’s happy head. I was enticed and longed for the full knowing of this man. And so, we planned a weekend together. That’s when things got confusing, unspoken and just-not-quite there. We went to bed in a couple’s way — unclothed and touching — all parts near. Kisses were shared and sleep came in hugs. I attempted more intimacy throughout the weekend and was deterred each time.
On Monday evening over the phone, I asked this man who had shared my bed for three nights running why we had not made love. “Your body is too wrinkly,” he said without a pause. “I have spoiled myself over the years with young women. I just can’t get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can’t deal with your body.”
I was stunned. The hurt would come later. I asked him slowly and carefully if he found my body hard to look at. He said yes. “So, this means seeing me naked was troublesome to you?” I asked. He told me he had just looked away. And when the lights were out, he pretended my body was younger — that I was younger. My breath came deep and full as I processed this information. My face blazed as I felt embarrassed and shamed by memories of my easy nakedness with him in days just passed.
We talked for some time more, my head reeling at the content of the conversation. He spoke of special stockings and clothing that would “hide” my years. He blithely told me he loved “little black dresses” and strappy shoes. He said my hair was not long and flowing as he preferred, but that was okay because it was “cool looking.” I felt like a Barbie Doll on acid as I listened to this man. He was totally oblivious to the viciousness of his words. He had turned me into an object to be dressed and positioned to provide satisfaction for his ideas of what female sexual perfection should be.
He explained that now that I knew what was required, we could have a great time in the bedroom. I told him no. I would not hide from my own body. I would not wear outfits to make my body more “tolerable.” I would not undress in the dark or shower with the bathroom door closed. I would not diminish myself for him — or for anyone. My body is beautiful and it goes along with my mind and my heart.
When I told Dave that I never wanted to see or hear from him again, he was confused and complained that I was making a big deal out of nothing. He whined that I had taken a small part of our relationship and made it a major event. I didn’t even want to try to explain the hurt and the horror that he had inflicted upon me. I actually felt sickly sorry for this man as I hung up the phone. It was after this call that I went to the bedroom and gently stripped off my clothes.
As I looked in the mirror — clear-eyed and brave — I claimed every inch of my body with love, honor and deep care. This body is me. She has held my soul and carried my heart for all of my days. Each wrinkle and imperfection is a badge of my living and of my giving of life. With tears in my eyes, I hugged myself close. I said thank you to God for the gift of my body and my life. And I said thank you to a sad man named Dave for reminding me of how precious it all is.