Bathing, Body Changes & Learning to Love Myself
October 10, 2019
Finding Self Love While Bathing Through The Years
Every time I get in the shower I’m reminded of why we clothe ourselves. I find myself thinking that even inmate stripes are more flattering than the skin I’m in. At my age, bathing can be an exercise in self-abuse if your head is not in the right space. That’s why I don’t do it. Daily, I mean. I figure unless I’m swabbing port-a-potties or assisting Mike Rowe in an episode of Dirty Jobs, I can’t possibly be that ‘dirty.’
Besides, not too long ago, bathing was a luxury not a time for dissecting body changes. Just heating clean water for a bath was a big event. One much like the arrival of the Pony Express…yeah, it’s funny now, but a very big deal back then. Our ancestors marked their calendars for a bath, people!
And let’s consider the environmental effects of bathing daily (or twice like some freakishly sterile Americans do). This is a totally unnecessary depletion of an already scarce natural resource like water. Add to that the pollution that results from the chemicals that we use to ‘cleanse’ ourselves and what you find is the ever-growing landfill alps of non biodegradable packaging from various hair and skin products, perfumes, body washes, shaving preparations, and those stupid ‘fizzy bombs’ that feel like tiny fish nibbling off your dead skin.
Be like me! Just say no! Save the planet! Vive La French!
Photo by Valentin Lacoste
Bathing: Back Then
My real struggle is with accepting the body changes of aging. It’s unique and personal to women. I mean, I’m content to flaunt my body, but in a more nuanced “let’s focus on my hair” sort of way.
It wasn’t so long ago (well, okay, 40 years ago), bathing was an act of self love, an exploratory and sensual way of self-discovery. My hands would glide over my sleek and newly formed curves; soft, long hair; across my face with its full lips, taut jawline and high cheekbones; all the way down to my strong legs and delicate feet. And bathing with the young man of my affections was not only a mutual lesson in anatomy but a not-so-subtle primer in sexual exploration.
Photo by Karla Alexander
Bathing: Somewhere Between
A lifetime later I marveled—immersed in a scented, steaming bath—at the cosmic magic that is pregnancy. In those quiet moments, I would think about my brief career as a nude model—full of myself—and then see the ripe vessel that was full of new life. My body had swelled to alpine proportions; stretch marks glistened like fault lines on a map as if an engineer built a road over here, and here, and over there too.
My little engineer built his house. Then she built hers and then, very soon after she vacated the premises, her sister took up residence. My feet swelled like rain-soaked earth and my nails became thick and long as if having a baby meant I would forever be feral; protecting my young. At the height of my ripeness—when I simply couldn’t reach them anymore—I asked my husband to trim my toenails for me. He returned from the garage with hedge trimmers and safety goggles. I laughed so hard, I peed my maternity underwear.
No matter how old I get, it’s hard to accept the body changes and release the memory of the sweet body of my youth. Probably because I still like to look at my 19-year-old self seductively sporting a leather bikini and leg warmers in my modeling portfolio (leg warmers were de rigeur in the 80’s).
These days I still marvel at my body changes. And not in the way you would be in awe of, say, diamonds at Tiffany’s. It’s in a more of a, “Omigod! Is that a ‘chisker?” way (chin whisker for the uninitiated). And in a, “But, I’m still a girl!” sort of way. These startling discoveries make showering seem like high school Anatomy 101 all over again.
Shower Scene: Today
Now, armed with my bar of organic soap under the water, I honor the belly that nourished the future, the legs that carried my babies’ homes, the feet that softly stepped as well as steadfastly stood, arms that held tight but knew when to let go, breasts that enticed and nourished, and a head that is in the clouds as well as in the moment.
In three minutes! Saving water and the planet!
To close, I’m blessed and thankful to have a healthy, albeit time and life-worn body. It shows up every day! And, there are billions of cells in my body and all they care about is me!
Wait, are those wrinkles or laugh lines?