The Shape of Water, Steam, Stomach, Lips and Reflections
When I was a little girl, I would take hold of my mother’s belly and press it into the shape of a mouth and make it talk and tell jokes and laugh. I would impersonate Carol Channing singing Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, pushing her stomach lips in sync with my overenunciated song. My mother would start to belly laugh, which made the mouth even more fantastic as it would jiggle and entertain me while she folded laundry in her 70s polyester halter top and matching shorts. I distinctly remember the feel of my smallish hands on her soft belly.
Karma can be nasty.
Three C-sections later, and my third child grabs at my exposed stomach line. She forms it into a mouth and laughs, what I believe to be an evil karmic laugh. Like a Bwa-ah-ah-ahhh. But surprisingly, I too, belly laugh like my mother once did. The episode wasn’t as horrific as I had imagined it could be. I remember her little hands on my soft belly.
I went to a spa with a girlfriend not long ago. I assumed there would be housecoats and privacy and little towels that covered areas. The beautiful spa lady who is somewhere between an Amazon goddess and a Woodstock hippie, guides us into the steam room where she calmly explains we will both be completely naked. Completely.
I would have made a run for the door, but the steam was impenetrable, the floor was slippery (I could fall and break a naked hip), and my girlfriend had already paid for the treatment. This was happening. Amazon Hippie Goddess directs me to the granite slab, attacks me with abrasive mitts, removes enough dead skin to clone another human, rinses me off and leaves me laying there in my condensation soaked nakedness to digest what just happened.
Shape, bodies, skin, size, puffiness, sagginess, love handles, back fat, hair, nails, to shave or not to shave, to eat gluten or not to eat gluten, collagen maybe, curly hair or straight, go grey or dye, to suntan or not to suntan, to run, to treadmill, to join a gym, to join a cooking class, yoga or boxing or Netflix, chocolate or tequila or acidophilous – all of these thoughts raced through my steam cooked brain.
I worried that the Amazon Hippie Goddess thought I’d let my former self go. That self where I was fit, and I was a personal trainer and I swore off Dairy Queen. Now she stares at my scars and my age and the gravity that pulls at my excess. She wasn’t judging me – she was glad to have me there, glad to help me shed my skin, glad to send me back out into the world refreshed and rejuvenated. Her eyes were kind and understanding, her mannerisms were thoughtful, her tone was not disparaging. Her best intentions were aligned with my own. She wanted a happy healthy me as much as I did.
Much like our time here with these women.
Body image, no matter how hard we women try, is always a tricky little demon we all wrestle. These incredible Inspire Portraits serve as a vital tool – that Mirror Mirror on Our Wall – the faces staring back at us in so many steps and stages of life – so kind, so warm and understanding, so in our corner.
We all, all are we – the fairest of them all. With or without singing stomach lips.