My body is changing
and I find it fascinating. My waist is thickening and my walk is heavier.
No, I’m not pregnant. I am getting older, slowing down; I may even be peri menopausal.
According to all the advice on the internet I should be exercising like crazy. If I ‘let my figure go’ then it’s all over for me. Go where? I wonder.What’s all over?
I imagine the sylphlike silhouette of my 20s packing her bags in disgust and stomping – as much as a sylph can stomp – to the front door without a backward glance.
I imagine my slim but curvaceous post-baby body sighing in disappointment, full breasts heaving dramatically for emphasis.
But instead of chasing after them, I blow them a kiss, thank them for the good times and watch as my hourglass becomes a little bit barrel shaped. I am happy to let them go. Well, mostly.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit to standing in front of my wardrobe, staring with regret at that pair of jeans that hugged my bum just right or that dress that swept me into lines commonly seen on a designer’s sketch pad.
Instead, what I own is utilitarian. A few outfits for work, a couple of pairs of jeans and shapeless tops in a range of mix’n’match colours. The only hint of vanity is the double row of boots. They are the coloured underside on my drab bird wings. My boots come in suede and leather; red, blue, black, chocolate, orange and tan. They line up proudly on spindly or chunky heels and declare that my youth isn’t over. Not quite yet.
When I discuss my body with others there is an awkwardness to the conversation. Having always been privileged enough to be thin I found this puzzling.
Then I realise. This is what women deal with all the time. That moment’s hesitation where one of several things may happen. Will they admit to my body change or reassure me that I am still my gorgeous self and that I’m imagining it?
The most common response is to initiate me into The Diet Club. You know the conversation? The one where the benefit of paleo over blood type (really, blood type?) is discussed.
If it’s not the Diet Club claiming me for membership, it’s the Menopause Club.
When I was first pregnant, women would tell me their birth stories in minute detail. Twice. For emphasis.
Now I am being told about hot flushes and itchy labias; blood pressure tablets and mammogram horror stories that involve breakfast foods. Or, that’s what I thought she meant when she mentioned pancakes.
Along with diets for weight loss I have been recommended pills to regulate periods and mood changes.
So far I am resisting. I am determined to love this new body and I have found one very good reason.
For thirty years, ever since I started puberty, I have been whistled at when I left the house. I have been pinched and groped while walking or at work.
Once, when I was at uni, a man grabbed my breast while I was bussing tables. I was so furious I emptied the entire tray of glasses that I was carrying over his head.
Now, I slip on my utilitarian wardrobe and head out the door to walk the beaches and streets of Melbourne. I am heavier in my boots and my steps ring with confidence.
Men walk towards me and I meet their gaze, never breaking stride or skittering to the other side of the road. If I turn my head after we pass, I don’t catch them watching my arse as I walk away.
Yes, I am happy in this new body that has unlocked me from the cage of men’s sexual gaze.
Deanne Carson is co-author of Single but not alone and her latest book, What’s a French Kiss: answering questions your preteen asks about puberty, sex and sexuality will be released in late 2013.