naked: when the beholder loves you

I spent most of Saturday at a meeting, eating a lot of oats. As it turns out, larger quantities of oats and my belly don’t get along so well–to be fair, much of that oatmeal came in the form of cookies and bars, but still. I waddled out of the door feeling distended, and bloated (blOATed! ha!) and a little bit ill. When I got back to my hotel room, I took off my sweater, glanced at the mirror and kind of gasped–my entire belly was poofed out, as if I had just sat and eaten a whale, except it took me significantly under 89 years. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed such a direct result of food on my body, ever, and it was strange to see.

I recounted the story to a friend of mine–“And I was so bloated and distended! I was huge! It was amazing! Biology is amazing!” Eventually talk turned to other things. Eventually, a few drinks in, we started to talk about body image, as we sometimes do because we are both fascinated by it. And she turned to me and said, I have to tell you: It sounded to me like you were complaining that you were fat and unattractive. She said that the first thing she thought was that if I thought I was fat and ugly with a big old gut, then what must I think of her, and the size of her stomach?

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you’re not as unique as you think

One of the
most comforting things in the world to me, when I remember to tear my
gaze up out of my navel and consider that my perspective is not the
only perspective in town, is the fact that…well, basically what I just said. That
mine is not the only one. That my problems are not the only problems,
my difficulties are hardly the worst ever of all the difficulties ever
dreamed up by a malevolent god, and my insecurities are nothing new
under the sun.

Sometimes I cannot embrace my flaws and I just flat out-loathe my
thighs. Lots of people do. Lots of people have problems with their
bodies. Lots of people are self-conscious being naked in front of their
mirrors and being naked in front of someone else, and none of us, as it
turns out, is alone.

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naked: pleasure mapping

This is the game: blindfold your lover. Then, take your time and move from the top of the head down to the bottom of their feet, and do just about anything you can think of to every part that strikes your fancy. Your partner’s job is to let you know exactly how good it feels, on a scale from zero to three. It is called “pleasure mapping;” it involves a ratings system, it comes from a book called Erotic Passions and all of it is odd and hilarious. But it also involves a blindfold (whee!) and a couple of hours of someone dedicatedly exploring your naked body, and that’s an idea I can so completely get behind.

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exercising naked

Photo via Splash

The most convenient way to exercise is to do it in your house, as it turns out. You can roll out of bed and stumble over to the DVD player and punch the play button. And then, you can flail all you like without the world judging you and finding you wanting some kind of grace and maybe a little dignity. Your pets will judge you, but you will not care, because of the joy you will take in the absolute freedom of more or less total privacy.

The problem with total freedom is that total freedom turns out to be that little things like pants cease to matter. You will pull on a sports bra, because your bosoms ought to be protected from the things that aerobics will do to them, and you might even put sneakers on, to cushion your knees and make it a little easier to jump around for just a little bit longer. But why should you put on anything else, really? You’ll overheat, if you’re wearing pants, and what’s the point of a top to go on over a bra that pretty much covers you neck to knees, and clothes are so restricting, anyway! Who needs them?

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loving yourself. pun intended.


Sometimes in magazines you will see an article about loving yourself and coming to terms with your body. Usually it means standing naked in front of a mirror and examining every inch of your skin with love and compassion. Or running yourself a bubble bath and lighting candles and floating for an hour, gently caressing your flesh and chanting some kind of mantra about your beautiful bosoms, your lovely limbs, your sensual stomach, and your fine, fine ass.

Once you get over the absolute goofiness and get past the self-consciousness, romancing your body is a very fine way to come to terms with it. It is a way of learning to look at it with happiness and touch yourself with kindness and feel good about the skin you came into the world and ended up with. Too often we divorce ourselves from our bodies when we decide they are too ugly to deal with, to look at, or to think about. They become the monster under the bed, growing in horror and terror and size and grotesquerie. We force ourselves to contemplate each and every part of it, to consider it individually and we find it, suddenly, hard to hate our body as a whole when we know each part so well.

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dressing up is my love

When I was heading out to San Francisco for a wedding week full of wedding events and wedding excitement and social engagements and being out and about on the town, I was excited, because yay! Weddings! Yay, people I love! Yay, happiness! But a big part of the yay was, I have to admit, yay going out! Because yay, I get to dress up!

Working at home is not much of an occasion for dressing up. It is not really even an occasion for pants, for the most part. There’s not much of a reason for makeup, when you’re going from the couch to the fridge to the couch to the bathroom, and maybe to the coffee shop occasionally. The coffee shop requires pants, and sometimes a glance in the mirror before you head out the door because maybe your hair looks hey-where-are-my-meds stupid. but mostly it does not matter. Your cat does not care if your outfits coordinate, and the Internet doesn’t really notice if you smell funny. Unless we’re talking metaphorically.

The days where I’d have to go down to Salt Lake–an appointment, or lunch with E, or a wild hare up my butt to be a grownup and sit in a chair and work in an upright position–were occasions of great celebration, in which I would choose my clothes very carefully and might even wear earrings. And occasionally, if I were feeling especially fancy about the library or chicken salad sandwiches, I would apply lipstick.

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the body public

Hanging out with a pregnant friend in public meant that we met a lot of strangers. Everyone is interested in a pregnant woman, everyone wants to be friends, everyone is fascinated and interested, friendly and intrigued, and everyone is suddenly filled with all kinds of advice about your way of life, your diet, your exercise, your body. People want to touch it, people are interested in it, people are looking at you and judging you and you are on show, on display, and your body is, as I’ve heard it described by many pregnant women, suddenly public property.

It’s kindly meant, I know. People are just looking out for you! And people are always looking for ways to connect, and ways to share their deeply considered opinions with the world at large. If you see an opportunity to launch into your spiel about transfats and fetal alcohol syndrome, why wouldn’t you just leap right on that opening and slide all the way in? So to speak. But K.T., who has never been subject to that kind of public scrutiny, that public interest, that sudden, overwhelming flood of advice, was kind of shell-shocked by it. And also by the fact that it has not stopped. She’s breastfeeding now, and the baby has to eat, wherever she is. And now the world is fascinated by her boobs, has an opinion about where she feeds, how she feeds, how often she feeds, and whether her breasts are obscene.

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the butt I want

Photo via Splash

Yesterday, I saw the butt I want. Not the butt I want to tap, in the sexual kind of sense–though she was very beautiful, this lady walking down the street. Late thirties, big full head of glossy black hair, two adorable puppies, and her butt in the teeniest, tiniest pair of electric blue spandex short-shorts I have ever seen in my entire life. It was spectacular. The whole picture, and also her butt. Absolutely round, totally perky and cute and if she hasn’t spent a significant portion of her life in front of a mirror bouncing quarters off that thing, well, she’s been wasting her time.

She had an awesome butt, is what I am saying, and I wanted to run after her and say so. Hi, stranger on the street! I just wanted to tell you that your butt rules, and how on earth did you do it? Squats? Lunges? Weights? Lifts, pulleys, a complicated set of Pilates maneuvers that will make me cry? Is it a rollerblading butt, a yoga butt, a running butt, a gift from a benevolent god? Please tell me! I didn’t, though. Because that would be creepy. You think?

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naked: tell us why you’re happy in your body

Here’s what we’re trying to do here: we want you to feel happy in yourself. We want you to feel like your skin is the right skin and your body is the right body and the best body and the most amazing body, because it is the one you’ve got, and the one you do so many amazing things with. You are beautiful, desirable, luscious, strong, vibrant, astonishing and your ass does not quit, and it is all you, every inch of it.

Think of everything that is wonderful about your body–maybe you’ve already written a letter. Dig it out and look at it again. Now think of a very specific moment in which you realized that you are amazing, a moment when things clicked and you realized that your body was a wonderful thing instead of something to battle, something that made you think, Well, holy crap. All these years, I’ve spent hating my body, and now look at me. That moment you fell in self-love.

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naked: you look good in those panties, baby

Sometimes confidence doesn’t work. It’s true–you are supposed to fake it until you make it, but sometimes, there is a crisis of confidence, a moment of terror, a failure of will, and you are left feeling completely naked when you are naked and trying to be sexy. That’s why I loved this Telegraph interview with our friend and yours, the ridiculously sexy and va-voom Dita Von Teese, on the right fit for your lingerie, on color and shape and the lighting that will help you feel like your gorgeousness is accented and any flaws you’re panicking about are hidden in the shadows. And you know what I love the most? It’s all just setting the stage and stacking the deck in your favor, in the end, when it comes to working on feeling you look as hot as possible in your sexy, lacy little numbers.