Or has she?
She. Is. Gorgeous.
Trendy cut-out bikini, tanned body, laughing with friends in the pool. Every man’s gaze is on her. Beautiful face, thick glossy hair, pert breasts and pretty much everything I want right now.
She’s twenty-ish and totally carefree. I’m forty-ish with two kids and things that are not where they once were, including my self-esteem.
Don’t get me wrong. I have rebuilt my body from debilitating illness. I love that I’m lean, healthy and strong and, above all, still here. But put me in front of a taught, twenty-something and I can’t help feeling a little sad.
I am a self-care superstar, dance queen and wannabe yogi, but I’m never going to get my twenty-something body back. And that’s never more apparent than when I’m looking at someone else’s twenty-something body.
I really took my twenty-something body for granted. I poured alcohol into it, partied endlessly and then wallowed in self-pity when I became seriously ill.
In truth, I didn’t like myself that much, so I didn’t take care of myself.
As Oscar Wilde said, Youth is wasted on the young.
And I know better than to compare myself to other women, really I do, but as a bio-hacker I find bodies weirdly addictive. Besides, I’m wearing dark glasses and the beautiful young thing in the pool is as oblivious to my scrutiny as she is to her own loveliness. She laughs without lamenting about lines and recklessly tans her face without worrying about age spots.
She may live to regret those things but right now she is, as my retired contraceptive dispensing mother-in-law calls it, “ripe.”
I am not withered by any standards but, up against teeny bikini and friends, I don’t feel as plump and juicy as I used to. So I hide behind my holiday read and secretly watch as the bathing beauty eases herself out of the water and saunters past to get a towel. I gasp in surprise. She has cellulite!
Shockingly, she does not seem to care!
I am busy feeling slightly superior as I have never had cellulite, when Teeny Bikini’s friend, with hair down to her minuscule waist and perfect almond shape eyes, skips past. Clearly not worried about slipping, or showing off her stocky calves and thick ankles.
My jaw drops as they keep coming. One with plump upper arms I would have trained tighter and one sporting unusually long boobs that are slightly lopsided.
No one else seems to notice. Least of all, them.
It seems youth has made them impervious to their imperfections.
I gulp and wonder when I became so body obsessed. Was it from rebuilding my own? Or is this what all women do?
I spend the rest of the day shamelessly staring at women.
They are everywhere.
The thirty-something latino woman with the perfect hourglass figure and incongruous pot belly. The lean forty-something with her rock hard runner’s body and wrinkled, outdoorsy face. The fifty-something stunner with the creamiest, smoothest skin I’ve ever seen, balanced out by a huge, wobbly bottom.
We are all in a semi-naked state so the assortment of pre and post baby bodies, wrinkles, dimples, sagging and surgical scars is endless and mesmerising.
I play the trading game — would I give my voluminous breasts for a tighter tummy? Would I cash in my flat bottom for more curve? Would I give my slender thighs for fuller, sensuous lips?
I could do all this cosmetically of course. With the right budget and a higher pain threshold I could easily form the Frankenstein version of me.
Then I realise there’s a method to nature’s madness.
No woman’s body is truly perfect or without flaw as the media would define it. I see how, against my best intentions, I have been groomed by every poster, TV ad or insta shot that offers only perfection.
When maybe we’re only ever meant to be perfect to a point.
What if our imperfections are deliberate? What if each thing we don’t like is really an opportunity to accept our humanity? Look at the anxiety and chaos comparison creates on social media. We have a generation of young women all trying to look like Kimmy K or the latest love island loser. We are conditioned to fill, fake and filter to be acceptable insta fodder. This level of judgement undoes our uniqueness, ignores our individuality and smothers our self-expression.
The message we all need to hear is: Don’t fit the mould, break it.
Maybe it’s the sunshine, but I start looking at every woman and seeing beauty. From what the world would define as beached whale to beach babe. From sumptuous hips to slender ankles. From tiny boobs to tanned painted toes. I feel the feminine in each woman. I witness the beauty of each woman radiating most when she is just being herself.
It’s not how you look, it’s how you feel about how you look
It’s often said the most beautiful women are those who are happiest in their own skin, regardless of its shape or size. There’s something seriously sexy about self-confidence. This is why the latino with the perfect hourglass and pot belly was being fawned over by a gorgeous younger man. This is why men care less about our looks and more about our essence. There is something gorgeous about a woman who glows with self-love. A woman who does not aim for perfection but simply shows up as herself.
In a world where women struggle with self-worth, self-acceptance is a start. We have to love what we’ve been given. We have to work with what we’ve got, because when we step out of self-judgement we open a door to inner strength.
Sure, I still have scars and wrinkles, but after staring at semi-naked women I am photoshopping less and loving myself more. My twenty-something body is gone but I finally REALLY like myself and that feels kinda ripe and juicy.
We have been taught to look at women’s bodies and judge them instead of love them. We don’t need scalpels and surgery, or the chaos of competition that comes from an outdated beauty benchmark.
We just need the self-esteem super pill of knowing we are perfectly imperfect.
When we see the beauty in every woman, including ourselves, we start to accept our own radiant deliciousness, regardless of age. We flaunt our femininity and feel divine and that, my friend, is beautiful.
I dare you to go look in a mirror and love what you see. I guarantee there’s a gorgeous woman waiting there…and maybe she wants to wear a bikini…