BOOKS ....... FREE STORIES ....... TALES OF TAM YS ....... ARCHIVE ....... EDITING ....... SARAH

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.


  1. Sarah, This is beautiful. I hope that lots and lots of people read this and take it to heart. Thank you for writing it.

  2. oh man. sarah. this is wisdom/beauty/truth. and i will throw in age. i asked a friend just this week why can't i be 59? why do i have to look 40, or thinner, and why isn't okay that there are gray hairs and jiggly bits?". because it is okay - all of it. all of your words.

    more than okay.

  3. Oh Sarah - that is just brilliant. So, so true - all of it. And yes, I admit, since my divorce I've been guilty of starving myself in an attempt to appear loveable to some other male. You see I don't like being single. I wasn't designed for it. I thrive in partnership with someone else. That has yet to happen but words like yours are so encouraging. Don't get me wrong - I have three wonderful children, a job, a home of my own and a faith that sustains me. I have so much more than many. And yet, I still buy into this lie that, at 54, I have to look like 44 otherwise my value plummets. Many, many thanks xx

  4. Is there something in the air? This idea, this paying attention, this being fed up with all that is hurtful about the way we see ourselves as women is coming up over and over for me. I rejoiced at a women's retreat I attended in the spring to see the young women there with their beautiful rounded bellies relaxed and naturally there, instead of being sucked in with breath or tight jeans...and this post I found just last night that has stayed with me through the night and into today (do you mind me sharing it?)


    And I am seriously considering putting up a photo of my stretch-marked, soft *and* slightly wrinkly 54-year-old belly on my blog in the near future. (hello to the other 54-year-old Lesley!). Let's keep filling ourselves up with wisdom like Sarah shares and turning away from everything that isn't coming from love and kindness. I learn much about this approach from my husband, who has always shown it towards me.

  5. thanks for naming social infertility -- it is a lovely and sad but real word ... it'll replace social awkwardness in my mind ...

  6. I am an "above average" woman with twin boys and a belly and stretch marks that show where they came from and a husband that loves every inch of me, sometimes alot more than I do. I love that I have true unconditional love. I am one of the lucky ones! Thank you for reminding me how truly lucky I am!

  7. thank you everyone for your kind and gracious comments, i appreciate them so much :-)

  8. Thank you, Sarah! I was just thinking last night how/where could I tattoo on my body the words
    'I AM ENOUGH" Maybe on my forehead? =)

  9. Thank you for your words, sister! We are, indeed, the most beautiful of women.

  10. I don't know a single woman that wouldn't be incredibly moved by these words.
    You fill me with longing...to let go of all the hateful things I tell myself... to connect with other women and stop pretending I love to be alone so much. ( I do love to be alone, but how I long for a sense of belonging... it's a balancing act, and I am falling too far sideways).
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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