"How do you feel about exposing the body you have now?" I wrote to a friend we'll call "Charlotte", who's obviously attractive by any conventional measure (adorable, actually) but is in her 40s, divorced with two tween-age kids and feeling it.
Running screaming into the night now, she typed back, "My issues have issues with this one." I haven't had any children," wrote Debra, "but coming out of a five-year relationship I've found that all my insecurities and fears about myself and dating have become rolled up in body image problems. It's as if, for me, any problem I might have is automatically sublimated to loathing my body.
And then, of course, I can't date because who would ever want to date big old fat me and viola all dating worries are solved. Sort of." I agree with Debra," Charlotte picked up, "Body image gets tied up with a great many other things when you're dating. I go back and forth. There are days when I'm happy with how I look, even though I don't like the number on the scale.
And then there are days when it seems like all the men I'm interested in are looking for the extremely sporty, no-body-fat women and that every man who might be accepting of my shape is not someone I'd be interested in. It gets into issues of what your mental image of yourself is, vs. what you might actually look like. I've never had anyone come out and say that they didn't like my shape, but there's not exactly an exit interview when things don't work out. It's much easier to think that someone didn't like me because of a few extra pounds, rather than thinking that they don't like my personality.
You can tell yourself that the weight is just a temporary issue. "Getting naked with a stranger should one date again shouldn't be the problem, though," said Anna, who divorced in her thirties with two kids and flouted the pessimistic conventional wisdom by remarrying in short order, "Presumably, you would be getting naked with someone you knew at least fairly well and there would be mutual attraction when you were both still clothed." That should work, I think, but it doesn't. I'm thinking of that scene in "I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka!" (isn't that where it was?) where the girl flings off her hat, then her coat, then her top, then her falsies, then her hair, then her teeth, then her leg... but it isn't just that we shed some self-confidence along with our carefully-chosen outfits and our Spanx.
I know, intellectually, that many men prefer a plusher body than that sported sportily by our steel-plated Gisele up there, and that many men who may not have a specific preference for what we might label our flaws are nonetheless delightfully oblivious to them, and that a large majority of men display a marked preference for "Hey! Naked lady right here! Yay!" It isn't about the men, really. It's about our own capacity to be brutal with ourselves about things which are beyond our control (age, postpartum changes, and/or bodily features dealt out by the Bitch Goddess of genetics), or semi-within our control under certain very favorable circumstances but necessarily de-prioritized (getting to the gym five times a week), and with our tendency to use those supposed flaws to construct both weapons against ourselves and armor against the world.
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