There were four of us out on a Sunday afternoon, looking forward to some live music, and since we were at a table for six and the tickets were sold out, they sat another couple at our table. I was facing the stage and the woman was seated directly in front of me, so I couldn’t help but observe her as part of the experience.
She had a beautiful face, and absolutely gorgeous, chestnut brown hair, cut in a style I envied. She was wearing a strappy, summery, white dress with a black Aztec-y pattern that’s so popular right now, and it fit so perfectly she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her skin was creamy and flawless, and to top it all off, she was really nice.
Then this thought hit me so hard, I was somewhat taken aback, “I wonder what she doesn’t like about herself?”
I’m surrounded by beautiful women in my life, and not just “beautiful” because I love them, they’re legitimately stunning women, who turn heads every day, and every single one of them has expressed unhappiness with her body at some point. These aren’t the type of women who are unhealthy and complaining, yet doing nothing about it, and they aren’t the type of women who are overly self-obsessed, high-maintenance, and complaining simply for attention. They are down-to-earth, fit, funny, energetic, successful women, and yet they all feel like their bodies aren’t quite up to some distant level of perfection.
So then I started wondering, “Do dudes think about their bodies as much as girls?” Initially my hilarious subconscious inundated me with memories of dudes stripping down at parties, in hot tubs, at hostels… guys are weird. But when pressed into seriousness, I began remembering snippets of conversations I’ve had or heard over the years; the theatre guy who was refused a role until he lost weight, the gay guys who don’t eat for two days before going to the beach, the ex model who doesn’t want to be caressed near his waist since he no longer has a six-pack.. And the discussion I had with a guy after he’d been to a nude beach for the first time: He was young, attractive, in good shape, and very confident, so I was surprised when he observed, “I’ve never really seen naked guys before, except I guess in porn, and I always kind of thought maybe I was below average.. But the men on the beach, they were all so different…”
I don’t know that the intense self-scrutiny is as prevalent with guys as it is with girls, however it’s definitely there. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve absolutely done the same to myself.. But WHY? Why are we all so damn hard on ourselves??
I have this really clear memory as a kid, being in the change room at the local swimming pool, and my mom traipsing my sisters and I, and all our gear, from the lockers to one of the few cubicles, where we took turns changing. There were semi-clothed and completely naked women and girls everywhere in that room, most were discreetly turned towards their locker, and it seemed that none of them felt any awkwardness about it. I didn’t feel particularly weird about changing in private, but it did seem like unnecessary effort. I didn’t really have the understanding or confidence to broach the subject, so it just got tucked away in my subconscious.
In spite of my shy, conservative, extremely modest mother (Don’t get all defensive, Mom! I think modesty is great, and under-appreciated, and very classy), I’ve somehow ended up with a pretty laissez-faire attitude when it comes to nudity – I simply never understood what the big deal was. Changing in front of people has never bothered me. Years of theatre school engrained a sort of careless intimacy about the whole thing; simply taking off your clothes in public would be out of the norm and probably anxiety inducing (for you and any observers), but shades of nudity in appropriate or safe places is perfectly acceptable. I think being comfortable and confident in your body is crucial to overall health and happiness – plus it’s really attractive. (Sidebar: Does anyone still have sex in the pitch dark, simply to avoid having their partner see them naked?!)
I’m not sure I have any brilliant philosophies to sum up with, I just think people should be a little gentler on themselves – and enjoy getting naked.