Last week I got another new book on finding peace and happiness in middle life. The woman who wrote the book had experienced a year from hell and in the process of recovering, had made several discoveries about herself. She developed a sort of ‘Twelve Step’ program for sedentary women like me to get off of their butts and get moving.
Among the many helpful exercises she created, the first is probably the most annoying. You are to look into the mirror while naked, and say out loud, ‘(put your name here)…you are beautiful.’
A new routine I have started each day when I get out of the shower is to take a concoction of essential oils I put together myself that are supposed to be beneficial for cellulite and massage them onto my thighs. Having to examine my thighs up close for any length of time is torture. But I do this, hopeful that by some magical properties of the oils, the skin will smooth out so I will stop being so shockingly amazed at how awful my thighs have become.
So now as I am standing in the bright flourescent light of my bathroom, in front of a full length mirror that is the width of a double vanity, naked, with all of the horrible ramifications of that, I think to practice saying, ‘Suzie, you are beautiful.’
The first time I do this, the spray of spit that comes out of my mouth along with the hysterial laughter decorates the mirror. The author says that it may difficult at first to say the phrase to yourself, but to keep up the effort. She swears the benefits of this in time will help you to achieve a new and powerful self confidence.
The next time I remember to say the words, I am sitting on the edge of the deck around the bathtub, under the skylights in the bright sunlight, with a magnifying glass and tweezers, taking care of my manhairs. I try to concentrate on just my chin and neck when doing this. Too much visualization of the nose and eye area will cause immediate disgust that nothing in any book will help. I can’t get the words out, so I sort of hum it out.
There is a commercial for V 8 Juice that has an 86 year old grandmother in a bathing suit water skiing. She is pretty remarkable. But the truth is that she looks like hell. Probably from years of water skiing in the sun, she is a mass of wrinkles. But the worst part of the commercial is her thighs. I am sorry, but give us break, will you? Eighty-six year old thighs are not decent material for daytime television. For all the effort she is making, why are her thighs so awful? I don’t understand it. What is with thighs?
Our thighs are like our necks. They go first. The late Nora Ephron wrote a book called I Don’t Like My Neck. I am guessing that many of us of a certain age are wearing more turtle neck shirts in the dead of summer. Remember Katherine Hepburn? She kept covered for most of her life after age fifty-five. My neck bugs me, but not like my thighs.
About twenty years ago, when I was still young and firm, my aunt gave me a picture of my grandmother and her sisters when they were at the beach in their twenties, in bathing suits. I was shocked! I could have been standing among them. They had my body! My big legs, no hips, broad shoulders like a linebacker. It helped me to accept my unconventional body.
A few years ago I saw a Madonna video that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. She looked fabulous. At first I though it was an old one from the 80’s. But it was recent. Her fifty-plus year old body was lean and strong, not a sag or dimple to be found. Someone interviewed her and she said she works out from 5-7 hours a DAY. How can this be? Doesn’t she get tired? When does she snack?
When I was going through menopause, I swear I could see my body morphing before my eyes. Things started sagging on me in places I always took for granted would be up higher. My upper arms, belly and inner thighs, good lord, give me a break! No matter how toned I could be, those things would have to be sawed off, its the only way.
I remember my mother, who has always been thin, saying she couldn’t stand to look at herself in the mirror because she looked like a skeleton that someone had thrown gray clay at. So being thin didn’t help her body image, either. I wonder if she had said she was beautiful while looking in the mirror would have helped.
I know, I should be lucky I have thighs; I cried when I hated my thighs until I saw a man with no legs. It doesn’t work. So, ‘Suzie, you are beautiful, but your thighs look like hell.’