to the beautiful woman
Hello, beautiful woman. I see you in the golden morning light, standing on that scale in the bathroom. You're such a lovely sight.
Understand, I'm not seeing you with my eyes. I'm watching him watch you. I can see him remembering how his hand traced the long slow bulge of your hips, your belly - a journey of romance, a dance in the dark. I can tell from his smile that he's counting each pound you carry : this one for the hours spent labouring in a cold hospital room; this one for the brave and wonderful homebirth; this one for that night under a thousand paper moons when just you and he went out for pasta; this one for the way you ate his mother's roast chicken and smiled, laughed, shared all his loves, even though you are vegetarian. How can I not see your beauty when I look at him looking at you?
Understand this too: I'm seeing you through their big, long-lashed eyes. You are huge to them. You are goddess-sized. They cling to your soft knees like they want to climb you, crawl back into you, all the warm loving softness of you. They haven't been taught yet about the Ideal of youthful slenderness. They don't understand how important it is to have a straight nose, long fingers, smooth hair. They catalogue your flaws like this: a laugh so loud they can feel it right through their bones and soul so they learn that joy is not just an intellectual experience; a soft, cosy body to wrap them in all the comfort of love; a weave of stretchmarks to decorate your skin like warrior paint or henna for the marriage day or clouds beautifying the sky. How can I think you fat, ugly, unacceptable, when I watch them looking at you?
And understand one more thing. I'm looking at you through the eyes of other women. And this is what they see: beauty they long for. A loving husband, devoted children, simple love. They starve themselves not so they can be pretty, but so they can be desirable and therefore have a chance to win what you have. Love. It's all about love. You are one of the lucky ones. If you of all people can worry about your body image, how much worse must it be for the women who do not have all the precious things you have? Who yearn for children but fear they'll never get them because no one wants to marry a fat girl or a freckled girl or whatever they think their problem is.
The misogyny of the diet industry, the cosmetics industry, the vile advertising industry : we allow it. We're scared and so we buy into it, literally. I wish we would stop talking about our body image problems, and start taking action.
Start talking about love and romance rather than sex and diets.
Start complimenting each other, building each other up.
Start drawing our single friends into our relationships with other single friends if we know they're lonely.
Stop talking about numbers on a scale, and talk instead about numbers of times we've crept up behind our children and lifted them suddenly into the air, swinging them around to make them squeal with delight.
Stop saying that it's okay to be alone. It is okay if that's what you want. But alot of people don't want it, and I see alot of women bricked up behind denial, pretending that they're truly happy in a solo existence. Let them grieve for their aloneness, their social infertility, if that's how they feel. Recognise it, acknowledge it, and then do something to create communities so women can really support each other.
Stop passing body obsession and shame on to our daughters. So they wear a bikini. So what? They're not trawling for sex, they're overheating on the beach.
Stop the message that guys only want one thing. Look at all the photographs of men with their babies. Read the love poems by men who can't breathe when they're in the presence of a certain women. Men have hearts. Don't let them just be bodies.
Start loving each other instead of comparing ourselves with each other. We are all beautiful within love. And we are all scared that we will not have love. The misogynist money-making diet doctors feed off that fear. We can only fight them with love.