I couldn't enjoy my body

 I can't believe I'm posting this photo.

I can't believe I'm posting this photo.

I woke up to my friend asking me what I what kind of cocktail I’d like to drink. Still half asleep, I muttered “I don’t day-drink.” She just laughed and went back downstairs. I was visiting her in Charleston with another friend from Seattle. I could the clinking of glasses downstairs. It’s around 2003.

We’d bought tickets to an all-day concert with Jack Johnson as the headliner. The plan was for us to go on the boat with some of her friends, come back and get dressed for the concert. I was secretly glad about getting off the boat after only a couple of hours. I knew my pale skin wouldn’t be able to handle all day in the sun.

We had a blast on the boat, it was a GORGEOUS day. I’d never seen this area of the country before, so it was cool to explore. 

At around 3pm, I casually said “doesn’t the concert start now?” In response, “Yes, Julie, chill out…we’ll get there.”

6pm rolls around and we FINALLY get back to her house. Everyone starts showering, drinking, smoking. 

I’m so relieved to get out of my bathing suit, and into evening clothes, which is what I feel best in. 

It’s why I loved New York City. You could stay indoors all day, working, writing, whatever, and re-join the world at night where other humans would stay up late with you. I’ve always kept vampire hours. 

My friends, on the other hand, didn’t seem anxious to get out of their bathing suits. 

They always looked so cute in their suits with their tan skin. I always felt like a freak at the beach. I’d be huddled beneath towels in a huge floppy hat, trying to find shade.

Bathing suits are also challenging when you’re trying to downplay your breasts like I was. 

Frankly, I’m shocked this photo exists at all. I’m pretty sure it’s the only photo of me in a bikini in EXISTENCE which feels terrifying to post…feel so exposed… and weird and awkward. Worse than sharing the post about being dumped! And that was a really hard one for me!!

But then, I’m like ahhh fuck it. Knowing one could be dead sooner rather than later is very liberating!

I see these young girls sharing SO many photos of their bodies on the Internet. Do they actually *enjoy* it? Or are they doing it because they feel like they have to?

It’s not that I’m down on my body. In fact, I’m always a little embarrassed to admit that I don’t hate my body. I know so many women struggle with body image issues. I’ve hated other things about myself - don’t get me wrong! - but not this isn’t one of them. 

However, it doesn’t mean I ENJOYED my body either. 

Let me make an important distinction here since my title could be misleading. 

You may have figured out by now that although I’m all for pleasurable sex between two consenting adults, I’m very particular about who gets access. Once I feel comfortable with someone and we are spending time PRIVATELY, it’s easy for me to enjoy my body.

When I say that “I couldn’t *enjoy* my body,” for the most part, I mean in PUBLIC. Why? Because I’ve never felt safe in public! Will I get catcalled? Groped? Assaulted? Roofied? Raped? Gang raped? Killed? And yes, women have these thoughts. Especially if they live a life of adventure like I have. I take risks. I travel alone. I’ve lived in a big city. I’ve been single.

I can’t afford to be naive. 

I’ve always been aware of which “message” my clothing and body are sending. Even walking from my apartment on 98th and Broadway to the subway on 96th, I’d be thinking: is my dress too short? Are my breasts showing too much? Am I going to hate that I’m wearing this on the subway later tonight? I remember going to a party in Brooklyn a few years back. I was going to wear a t-shirt dress that was kind of short but lose on top. At the last minute, I switched to jeans.

I ended up walking through a neighborhood of really religious Jews. ON SHABBAT. OMG, I was so so glad I didn’t wear the short skirt! YOUNG WOMEN were giving me disapproving looks, even in my jeans.

We get judged EVERYWHERE for our bodies. E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E.

Part of the reason that so many young women post SO many photos of themselves all over the Internet is because they THINK they are supposed to be getting attention for their body. This is how they perceive their WORTH and VALUE. 

This breaks my heart. Margaret Sanger must be rolling in her grave. 

Now that my body is so broken, I wish I could have enjoyed it MORE when it worked well!

As a woman, we can’t win.

We are too fat. Too skinny. Too much skin showing. Not enough skin showing. Too slutty. Too prude. 

Puritanical was the word Natalie Portman used in her speech I saw today, which is when I knew this was the story that would come out today.

We have to make smart choices every day about how we *appear* to the world. Sometimes our lives depend on it.

Other times, it’s just a matter of whether we will make it to a concert on time. 

I’m drinking my beer, sitting in my jeans, cute top, my breasts smushed into their minimizer bra. Hardly any skin showing. My body exposed only in a way that I *want* it exposed.  

FINALLY, we get in a cab and head to the concert. People look wrecked as we get out of the cab. Something is off.

I show my ticket to the woman at the gate and she looks at me rudely and says “the concert is OVER.”

I turn and give a death stare to my friends. They look sheepishly down.

I run up to the last row as the crowd is screaming and hooting.

Jack Johnson is giving an encore. I catch the last song of his set and smile into the South Carolina night.

Google: "women body image" and there is a plethora of information. Media has been a major culprit in effecting women's body image. I remember studying this in college in the early 90s and things only seem worse now because of the Internet. 

"The correlation between media image and body image has been proven; in one study, among European American and African American girls ages 7 - 12, greater overall television exposure predicted both a thinner ideal adult body shape and a higher level of disordered eating one year later."

Other articles point out that MILLIONS of women feel depressed about their bodies. Why is women’s body image anxiety at such devastating levels? "Almost 10 million women in the UK ‘feel depressed’ because of the way they look, according to new research kicking off Body Confidence Week. But campaigns to address the problem too often miss the point."

We have a LOT of work to do!

Photo #7b. This is part of a writing project where I challenge myself to write 700-1000 words per day - not in advance - for 30 days using old photos and different writing prompts. This particular set of stories will focus on my experiences as a (white) Gen X woman and experiencing America pre- and post- #metoo movement.