Photo borrowed from https://hilldalehouse.wordpress.com/2012/05/
It’s always nice to let your belly out now and then. Growing up, probably as far back as first grade, I spent most of the time concentrating on “sucking it in” to look skinnier. Now this is second nature, and I don’t even have to think about keeping my tummy muscles tense. This morning I had a bowl of cereal with raisins (comically, we buy fruit-free muesli and then every morning I add the raisins back in to my bowl just to make it sweeter) and a cup of jasmine tea with milk. Afterwards, since this week I’m not going into the lab, I turned on the heater in my room, crawled into bed under the fluffy, white wool duvet and shut my eyes. Resting after eating always gives me a sense of bliss. Feeling full and happy, I rolled up my shirt half way and let my smooth belly balloon out to all of its glory, much as I’ve seen a few old Latino men do on hot days. Just to give my belly its own place. Just to say, “It’s okay, today you don’t have to suck it in. Today you’re good just how you are.”
I’m not usually in support of excessive skin exposure in public, but today I made an exception and was delighted by the results. I told everyone who asked about my Labor Day plans that I would probably just stay at home, getting done some leftover tasks from last week and starting on next week’s tasks. I would try to avoid the typical Labor Day hot spots like shopping malls and beaches, I told them. However, as it almost always happens when I make such statements, I found myself just where I said I would not be, at the beach. As I’d imagined, it was difficult to find a parking spot, so I ended up parking two beaches down from where I intended to go and walked in sandy flip-flops back to the first beach to meet my friends. I was a little grouchy about the whole situation, really, thinking that my friends called me too late and if only we’d gone to the beach in the morning, when I would have suggested going, I could have found a good parking spot and I wouldn’t have to tan in the setting sun…and so on and so on. When I saw my friends, I remembered why people go to the beach, “Oh yeah, to have fun!” All my complaints soon melted away. Later as the sun was setting, it was time for me to make a bathroom run, so without thinking about it I got up and started walking. It wasn’t until I got a little father down the promenade that I realized what was strange about my condition. I had no towel or cover-up. Yes, that’s right. I dared to expose my mid-section! And the stares from those around confirmed that it was indeed a faux pas. I had the audacity to be walking in just a bikini! At first I felt self-conscious, but then I let it go. When I did, my senses were heightened and I connected to the present. I felt the wind against my belly and all over my body, my legs gliding past each other. I couldn’t help but smile remembering how when I was a child I would run around in my swimsuit all the time with no concerns. People continued to throw small glances at me, mainly of interest from the men and of disapproval from the women. But I almost wanted them to disapprove, because at some level, hopefully, they would question what I was questioning. Do we women always have to be so self-conscious about our bodies? Do we have to think that they’re imperfect and should be hidden? Do we think that we’re always just ten pounds away from confidence? Today I said, “No.” And I’m writing about it to remind myself that I said, “No.” Because I think that each time you let go of a fear and begin to sense what the moment has to offer, you take a step forward; you reaffirm your beautiful nature and you set a positive precedent for yourself and for everyone around you.