The lifelong conversation we have with our physical forms
Three years ago I started writing on an online platform, and as is my habit I also began to explore the available authors. One, a woman close to my age (at the time I was 65) had done a photo shoot of herself in sexy lingerie.
Suffice it to say there was a touch more coverup and draping of soft silk than there was expanse of flesh, but what struck me was how un-self-conscious she was about displaying her aging body in a way that clearly telegraphed self love and regard.
I've no idea what kinds of comments her piece engendered. Given the atmosphere I don't want to know. What I suspect, however, was that those Silver Sisters who saw this and were moved both by her courage as well as her statement of confidence in her body past sixty, were supportive. I sure hope so.
Last year I met and befriended, via the same platform, a fellow adventure traveler and kindred spirit named Maggie Kruger. I ended up writing a story about her exploits. She is a pilot, diver, writer and fellow international traveler.l At 68, perhaps what struck me the most about her was her attitude about life and aging. At 67, which we both were at the time, she exclaimed with her characteristic joie de vivre that she "couldn't wait to be 68 and see what the next year would bring!"
Who doesn't love such a woman?
Maggie, like me, has had her fair share of terrible accidents, terrible men, rough times and good times. The stories are etched on her lovely face, as are the scars and side roads carved into our bodies after kids, and weight gain or loss, or whatever sports we chose to decorate our skin with. We have lived, lived hard, lived well, survived, thrived and evolved.
Those divots define who we have become and the canyons we've crossed, the ravines we've rappelled and the emotional landscapes we've navigated.
Maggie said once,
"Our bodies are sending us love letters for how we've lived."
I loved that line so much that I keep using it, in part because it's such an exquisite sentiment, but also because it's so very true.
Over the course of our lives, especially as women, our bodies morph constantly. Maggie's had kids, I have not, which means that there are stories that her body tells about harboring and then delivering new life.
One time a woman on Facebook was moaning loudly about how the stretch marks she had from her daughter gave her great pain and embarrassment. I have to wonder at a world where we as women feel shame for proof of the single most potent gift we can give the world: new life, in this case, a baby. She was proud of the child but resentful of the price she had paid: her hips had expanded, she had scars.
If she chooses to remind her innocent child of this, she will also scar her child, and teach her to be deeply ashamed of her body for one of the primary roles for which it was designed. What kind of world punishes a woman's body for the price she paid to give the world new life?
But that's another article.
Long before patriarchal religions, the woman's body was revered for this very ability. Nature is most often deemed female in nature for Her ability to support life, even as she just as swiftly ends it. In her vast reach, the range of nurturing to destroying, Nature mirrors our own proclivities. Her great body bears the same kinds of scars: some self-inflicted, many more by man, just as with women.
I've written before about how my face, now barely two years from turning seventy, speaks most especially to the adventures I have been on these last twelve years. While at some level I do indeed miss the smooth skin of my youth, I am drawn far more to the faces of experience, the body of work that is expressed in our physicality.
The last time I did a lingerie photo shoot I was in my mid-fifties. I've kept my figure, but my skin speaks to my age. It speaks to the unspeakable treatment I offered it in my youth, and the long hours of baking in the sun in Florida, blissfully ignorant of what I was doing to my precious skin. It is a testament to the treatment I subjected it to, as well as the long-standing commitment to care that I eventually relaxed into by thirty-four, and then steadily improved upon over the years.
Maggies' body served her well enough to haul a 300-lb man out of the Gulf of Mexico to earn her Rescue Diver Certificate. At 67. To earn her pilot's ratings.
My body serves me well enough to climb, hike, cycle, lift weights and do those insane things I love to do all over the world.
People who do not live out loud have bodies that might well sport far fewer scars, but they have far fewer stories to tell.
Every wrinkle, every tattoo some tree scraped on my cheek or carved into my forearm is a tale. And as in all great story arcs, some of it sucked. And then some of it, well.
You try riding a fine Arabian stallion at full speed towards the sunset in Hurgadah, Egypt. You try that sometime, and tell me that being alive isn't a pretty wonderful thing. You have your own version of that, and it could well involve cradling a newborn. Yours is different. No less remarkable or amazing.
What our bodies allow us to experience simply boggles the mind.
The love letters my body sends me as I skid towards seventy are pretty special. I've earned them. I care for her, she cares for me. When I stopped getting so damned angry at her for not being perfect (as determined by...who exactly?) things changed. A lot.
Another friend in her mid-sixties just recently lost a dress size or two after finally allowing herself to love the body she inhabits. She told me that she, too, preferred the older women warriors in Wonder Woman. Yeah, yeah, Gail Godot is lovely. But her mother and aunt, played by aging actresses, were to our eyes far more lovely. They had character.
When you and I stop treating our bodies as enemies, as creatures set out to destroy our self confidence, as traitors and schemers, we begin to truly live. Our bodies are simply ecstatic, amazing works of art, each one of us a unique sculpture, ours to inhabit for life. If you doubt this please see the incandescently wonderful The Body: A Guide for Occupants, by the inimitable Bill Bryson.
If, upon reading this rollicking, superbly-researched tome about the skin suit you inhabit you don't come away gobsmacked with appreciation for the skin you're in, then you just aren't paying attention.
This body, your body, deserves love, respect, care, maintenance, and hard work. Said hard work isn't punishment. It's an invitation to play. When we work hard, play hard, and then sink our skin into a hot bath or hot springs or whatever it is that we indulge in, that's when we hear the language of our body, loving us back.
Your beautiful body deserves sexy lingerie at any age, in any shape. Your incredible body deserves your care, respect and regard at any age, in any shape.
Your body is a miracle. YOU are a miracle. And the body you have sends you love letters all day, every day, for how you live.