This is my body*

DSCN2755*yes really. But only part of it.

Having spent a large part of last week on a beach wearing a swimsuit, I am more aware than usual of my body. It’s had one not terribly careful occupier, it has a manufacturing flaw in one leg which has been compounded by attempts to fix it, and it could never be described as lithe or agile. It is built for comfort rather than speed, for slow and steady endurance rather than explosive energy. It bears the evidence of a fondness for good cake and a drink or two. I am rather attached to it.

On holiday I was surrounded by bodies in considerably better condition than mine. So it amused me at first to see ladies reaching for wraps, shirts, sarongs etc every time they moved off their sun loungers. It was always ladies, blokes seemed less worried, donning t-shirts if they were reminded too. But as I saw one woman reach for her wrap to cover herself as she turned over, or sat up to delve into bag for replacement book, I began to see the darker side.

You see, I don’t understand what it was that made the lady so determined to cover herself. While she was still, anyone could look (and all was respectable, this was a Rector’s holiday, remember – swimsuits stayed on!). Who had taught her that sunbathing is fine, but that a body in motion is something to hide? Who had taught her shame and fear?

The distance from my favourite sunlounger to the sea was about half that from my lounger to the nearest place to get a drink (note the psychology, it was supposed to make me twice as likely to swim as to drink, which mostly worked). So I don’t really understand why the norm was to cover up to go and get a drink from the beach bar, even if it was a can being taken straight back to the lounger, while the distance to the sea and back could be navigated without any extra cover being socially necessary. I was visible to exactly the same people regardless of destination. The ones who saw me flollop down to the sea and back knew what that looked like, so why was seeing me flollop along the beach to the bar and back any different?

I wonder if what I was seeing was all about image – it is perhaps possible to arrange oneself carefully to look ‘good’ in repose, and less easy to do so while in motion. It seem a shame to me that while on holiday, relaxing, women were still so very conscious of their bodies.

I’m sure there is a world of social etiquette I am misunderstanding….can anyone explain?

PS I am talking about a beach bar. The restaurant had rules about covering up, understandably. Can’t have people being put off their food!


One response to “This is my body*

  1. I suspect that your thoughts about body image are the right ones. These days, we’re bombarded with adverts and pictures of perfect bodies. Celebrities and the celebrity culture has produced a hyper critical media, always ready to point out a sign of cellulite on some prominent personality, and we’re encouraged to join in with their abusive (because that’s what it is) coverage.

    I’ve always been comfortable with my body shape. I was overweight when I joined the Army, but they soon sorted that out. And as I was always exercising, I kept fairly slim. But in my fifties I started slowly and surely accumulating weight until my waist size last year reached size 40. I could have worried about it, but didn’t just bought larger clothes.

    Now, six months into a diabetes related diet I’ve dropped over a stone and now have a waist size down to 38 and reducing. I’m not worried, it’s a fact of life. If I want to avoid complications, my exercise needed to increase and I had to stop eating the nice things. And the discipline of doing so works. My blood sugar is again at normal levels (helped by both diet and medication) and I will just get on with it, not worried about body image, just about ensuring that I’m still around long enough to enjoy what God might have in store for me.

    Jen my spouse is in a similar situation. Since I started the diet and changed our eating patterns, she has also shed weight, proven by a recent visit to the doctor and was congratulated on it. She couldn’t care less about her body image and I love her for it. She does care about her health though and has had just about every test possible to say that while she’s a tad overweight, that she’s quite healthy for her age (she bites on that one). We both dislike the body images portrayed in the media as being desirable, and think that people if they adopt a reasonable healthy diet and lifestyle, whatever their shape, will do OK.

    And I know some large people who are pretty fit, exercise a lot and are probably healthier than many who spend hours and days worrying about looking like a stick insect.

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