Knowing Your Naked Body (and Naked Face)

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Selfies with the 7x magnifying mirror

I recently had the opportunity to experience that most rare and exotic of situations: solitude.

Not the kind of alone time you get when your toddler is napping and you finally collapse on the couch and look at your emails, and not the kind of alone time you get when you’re driving between errands or managed a solo trip to Target to pick up diapers. No, this was real solitude, or at least the winter 2014 version of it (It was more ‘fireplace suite for one’ than Thoreau’s ‘Into the Woods’).

I drove four hours one way to visit my mom last Sunday. My husband and I agreed I would go alone since I was going to do the return trip the same day, and our two-year old wouldn’t enjoy over eight hours in the car. I knew a snow storm was coming, but I still decided to give in to temptation and make an IKEA run…and late that night, while I was still 175 miles from home, I grew incredibly sleepy and started driving over ice patches. I decided to be sensible, and I checked into a roadside motel in a tiny town off the interstate.

I woke up the next morning to nearly a foot of snow. The entire hotel was abuzz at breakfast, talking about how no one was going anywhere that day. I dug my car out and took a test drive to the grocery store. I had to help a lady push her car out of a snow bank which had formed while she was shopping.

I quickly returned to the hotel after stocking up on food and checked in for another night while the storm raged outside. For the first time, it hit me. I was totally alone with nothing to do. No errands to run. No people to talk to. I sprawled out in the bed and ate Cheetos (bad, I know). I went down to the pool and sat in the hot tub in my pajama shorts and a tank top, hoping no one would tell me off. I went back up to my room and showered and as I hung my pajamas in front of the fire I realized I had nothing clean to wear. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just be naked for now.

This hotel room had a lot of mirrors all of a sudden. A LOT.  There was even 7x magnifying mirror above the sink.  I realized I was audibly going ‘Ahh!’ when I caught sight of myself.

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The endless, makeup-less face. The 7x magnifying mirror strikes again.

I hadn’t looked at my body in a long, long time. I loved my body while pregnant, but as soon as I gave birth I felt uncomfortable with it. So much of my shape had changed. My stomach had a new, looser jiggle, and my midriff harbored stretch marks over what used to be smooth, youthful skin. I’d read all of the memes about being a tiger who earned my stripes- but I still didn’t want to look at them.

I breastfed for 11 months and my breasts became something else to me. Beautiful, but in a different way. They were functional. That was it. I only saw them in the context of feeding, or pumping, or trying to fit into new bras, unsuccessfully.

And maybe that’s how I came to see my post- baby body. Different, functional.

Ignored.

My husband says I wander around naked, but that’s just because I can never find  clothes I’m happy with to cover  this new body of mine. When I find them, I cover up and certainly don’t do what I used to do- preen, change outfits, compare how my butt looks in certain jeans.

All of a sudden, in this hotel room, I was faced with something I’d been avoiding: what I really looked like naked.

I didn’t stand around naked all day– that 7x magnifying facial mirror was my next project. Whoa!  The pores. The unplucked eyebrows. The nose hair. I could see it all, so so clearly.

I took the above photos in the magnifying mirror as this blog post took shape in my mind. I was getting to know my body, my face.  And why hadn’t I done it earlier?

I love my son. He is absolutely worth every mark, scar, tear, stretch, and hormonal shift. He is my world.

But my body is mine alone. My face is unique to me; it tells my story.

I feel we need to honor ourselves more, inside and out. My body deserves more than the shameful covering I’ve been quick to toss on while never acknowledging  what’s under those clothes. My face deserves a closer look.

I need to learn to love my body again- to nourish it, to know it, to treat it how it deserves.

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Day Four: Boobs

My boobs were bigger than my son's entire head. And this is when they were 'smaller.'
My boobs were bigger than my son’s entire head. And this is when they were ‘smaller.’

Note: This post is about breasts.

America. Land of the free and the home of the uniboob.  And double boob. And under boob. And side boob. And back rolls caused by ill-fitting bra straps.

Because American bra-makers (if there is such a thing- it’s probably more like American bra-decision makers) seem to think A through D cup is enough. And if that’s not working for you, just go up in inches. Spilling out of a 36D? You’re probably just a 38D in disguise!

These bra-decision makers sit in their ivory towers,  and most of them are probably men. The women who ARE there have worked hard, so they probably don’t have time to eat and are resting comfortably on their thrones in teeny tiny sexy lacey bras; sensible B cups.

But down here in the real world, boobs don’t stop at D. And for some of us, not even DDD.

Not me.

I’m picking on America for a reason. I worked at a lingerie chain in Scotland as a holiday temp one year, and I fitted many women’s bras. It was very common for a woman to be a 34E or a 36F. This main stream lingerie brand, known to every Britain I’m sure, didn’t hide their higher cups on a shelf of shame.  The Es, the Fs, the Gs…they were all right there, with the cute bras!  In every single size!

And every single Scottish co-worker said to me, “Americans are terrible with their bra sizes! They’re all in the wrong size!”

I quickly learned this was true.

So what’s a girl to do? There’s a lovely shop in Edinburgh which carries bras AND clothes for the large busted woman. It’s amazing. But now I’m wandering like a lost sheep through bra sections in American shops and I’m coming up empty handed.

Just this week I went to a store which should specialize in selling to larger chested women. The highest size I found was DDD, so I tried on a ton of styles hoping one would fit. No luck.

Finally the saleswoman pointed me to the little shelf in the corner which sold F-H cups. I was running late at that point, so I grabbed two in a cup size F and went home.

They’re still too small!

I may truly just be a freak of nature. I’ve always had super large breasts. But now not even an ‘F’ fits me and I have to imagine if I lost weight my cup size may go down as well.

I(nterestingly, the smallest my boobs have ever been is the year I was breastfeeding. I loved it! They were so…manageable. To me. It’s all about perspective, I suppose.  But I prayed to be one of those women whose boobs changed forever after childbirth.

Well, they certainly aren’t as perky, so that change remained.

But as soon as I stopped nursing, they got bigger again! I asked my doctor, who just shrugged and said ‘Yep.’

So. If there’s one thing I’m really looking forward to with losing weight, it’s being able to fit nicely into a bra. It’s being able to wear shirts that don’t automatically show cleavage,  even when they aren’t designed to. It will be the luxury of being able to bend over without worrying about who is seeing what.

Not that it should really matter.  Breasts are wonderful. And for now the only solution is to start wearing turtlenecks, and I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.