Once upon a time, I had a scorching hot little body.
Not just humid, it was sizzling. I wore a teeny thong on European holidays and paraded around topless as if the beach was my own. My boobs didn’t move whether I wore a bra or not – and these were no pancakes. I defied gravity.
I had a fashion designer boyfriend who made me titchy, slinky, silky dresses with see-through panels that didn’t faze me. For many years, I felt confident strutting into every nightclub and thumping bar I frequented in any city I lived in. And I loved being naked. Whenever, wherever I took my clothes off there wasn’t even a fleeting flicker of self-consciousness.
Let me confirm, those days are long gone. They are hazy memories I have to squint very hard to see in my mind’s eye, and even when I catch a glimpse it’s like a past life that doesn’t seem real. Although, I will confess that some of the moments are captured in cheeky Polaroids (yes, I’m that old) that I still look at sometimes to raise a smile. Looking back at me I see a tiny, tanned, size 6 version of me that I can’t relate to anymore.
I try not to look at myself in the mirror these days. Bits that were tight are now baggy like a bad pair of cheap tights. Unlike tights, I can’t simply buy a new pair. I can’t invest in a new packet of arms or a fresh, glossy pair of legs that are smoother. Neither can I put myself in a hot wash to shrink. Although, now I think about it, maybe I’ll give it a go…
I had an operation nearly three months ago to remove a huge tumour which has destroyed my body for good. A scar wraps itself from one side of my stomach to the other as if I’ve been sawn in half like a bad magic trick. It doesn’t look like my body anymore.
I wailed into my pillow after the operation with grief. I had to let go of a lot of things – my body being one. And do you know what? Now the shock has passed, my broken body really doesn’t matter. I still do a double-take when I catch a glimpse in the mirror, when I step out of the shower, but I’ve totally given up on striving for perfection.
The price tag of value was the all-clear that came from the lab, and with that I kissed goodbye to a body confidence that’s gone forever. Well, who needs to be parading around in a thong at 41 anyway?
I look back at those Polaroids and see a girl who’s so young and pretty, yet I remember how unhappy and insecure I was. I worked out every single day (sometimes twice) to literally train my body to be a muscular, tight fit size 6. I pounded the treadmill for an hour or more and wasn’t out of breath. It was like a stroll along the beach to me. I did leg presses and squats without a flicker of pain and stomach crunches in sets of 50 while I daydreamed.
I remember setting off on one of those topless European jaunts, shimmying effortlessly into a new pair of neon pink cropped trousers from Topshop that looked like they belonged to a child. But I was empty inside.
I went shopping for a new bikini last weekend. It was a milestone as it’s the first since my op (aka: the magic trick gone wrong). I worked with what I’ve got; boobs:
A neon floral bikini top ensures all eyes are where they should be – the party up top. A suck-me-in pair of black bottoms polish off the perfect combo. No one will even notice my scar. Why? Because they’ll be too worried about what their own body looks like on the beach. There will be no strutting along the sand for me. I’ll merrily sculpt myself some accommodating body holes in the sand and bury myself just enough so it doesn’t give me tan lines.
The health and happiness I’m blessed with today doesn’t include a perfect body. So what? I’ve spent decades doing deals with happiness. “I’ll be happy if I get this promotion”, “happy when I get a pay rise”, “happy if I fit into a size smaller”. You can’t buy happiness and it doesn’t do deals. You take a right turn into acceptance and find yourself in a cosy room called contentment.
Most importantly, I’ve learnt to be comfortable in my own skin (even if it is a bit baggy) and that’s a designer outfit money can’t buy.
How do you feel about your body?