While out for drinks the other night, a few friends bemoaned their lack of tight skin and embarrassment over poochy tummies. After one or two more drinks, the confessions began.
“I don’t like being on top any more. After nursing two babies, my boobs flop around.”
“Lights off. Always,” another friend said firmly.
“Lights? I try not to take my clothes off!”
We laughed a little and moved on to other topics. Later, I looked back on our night and thought about how beautiful those friends are. I couldn’t imagine how they could feel so unattractive to their husbands.
Of course, I can relate to my friends’ insecurities — I think most mums can — but here’s the thing: My situation, which is the source of so many of my insecurities, is much different than theirs and probably yours. For nearly a decade, I was married to a man so deep in the closet, I never suspected a thing. Our sex life started off on solid ground, however, as the years went by, he had more and more difficulty hiding his secret from me. In an effort to keep his feelings hidden, he destroyed my self-confidence.
My ex disguised his lack of interest in dismay over my post-baby body. He expressed disgust over the size of my boobs and the roundness of my stomach. Maybe he just didn’t realise it was the very femaleness of a woman’s body after giving birth that he was reacting to. Regardless of his reasons, the criticism, the snide remarks over loose skin and stretch marks, and the ever-helpful gifts of gym memberships and suggestions of diets resulted in a woman who felt less sexy than a trip to the dentist.
When our relationship came to a head and he finally confessed his deepest secret and his desire to enter into a relationship with a man, the pain I felt was mixed with fury. I had promised to love and honour this man and, while I wanted to support him in being his true self, I couldn’t help but struggle with the need to break his nose for hiding his internal struggle by systematically destroying my own confidence and sexuality. Even his parting remarks that I’d better date men who liked “big” women stemmed not from concern for me, but from his own inability to take responsibility for the damage his secret had caused to the one person he’d vowed to protect and honour.
After our divorce, I started dating and came to the quick realisation that for most straight men, a woman’s body – whatever form it takes – is beautiful. Enlarged breasts were admired. Soft thighs were lusted after. Curvy hips were worshiped. It turned out that I was not a struggling nymphomaniac, as my ex so often claimed, nor did I have an unhealthy obsession with sex. I was a normal, healthy heterosexual woman who had been unevenly yoked to a homosexual man.
I know most women have enough body issues to fill a football stadium. No matter how many times we read articles telling us to celebrate our “flaws” and embrace the tiger stripes of motherhood, if the plastic surgery fairy were to arrive on our doorsteps offering free fixes, most of us would give her a big, fat kiss on the mouth and sign up for Botox, liposuction, tummy tucks, boob lifts, and — my personal dream — butt implants. (Flat bottom gals would kill to fill out their jeans.) The thing is ladies, you’re all more beautiful than you realise. Listen to the men or women in your lives when they tell you so and walk away from the ones who try to destroy you.