My Double Life

by Amy on October 5, 2017

I found some photos of me posing in my underwear.

From twenty five years ago.

We were living in Los Angeles. Our neighbors were working actors. We’d see them on TV. He had a co-starring role in Beverly Hills 90210.

Once they told me I could get work doing beer commercials. As a femenist the thought of appearing in a beer commercial horrified me, but, I admit, I was flattered.

When you live in LA, it’s hard not to get caught up in it all. Hell if you live anywhere it’s hard not to get caught up in it all.

I was there to get an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies, writing about rape culture, reading Naomi Wolf, listening to Tracy Chapman, but I still wanted to be beautiful like the women on the billboards, the models I saw in the magazines and the actresses I watched on TV.

I thought being beautiful made me safe. If I could be beautiful my husband would want me, my mother would love me, I would go places in life.

Our culture worships beauty. My husband, my friends, even my own mother… to some degree we all, conscious or not, offer a special status to the beautiful.

I knew this and so, despite my degree in women’s studies, I led a double life. I read The Beauty Myth yet spent hours in front of a mirror trying to get every hair right. I attended Take Back the Night rallies yet only allowed myself a fig newton for lunch. I worked at a rape crisis center yet believed that my worth depended on being desirable to men.

I am no longer that girl in those photos. Twenty five years later I am a proud mother who has given birth to three babies.

And yet…

A few years ago I went to see a surgeon who drew lines across my abdominals, grabbing the folds of extra skin left over from my pregnancies, drawing them down to demonstrate how he would do it. “You might have to walk crouched down for a month or so,” he warned. I can’t guarantee you will get your belly button back.”

As bad as I wanted to be that picture again, I also wanted my daughters to see me as I am. I wanted to show them that imperfect can be even more beautiful.

My double life.

I started to have pain in my pelvis. I started to have to pee at all hours of the night, eight, nine, ten times a night. My bladder would not, could not, relax enough to let me sleep.

In desperation, I contacted a healer who reminded me to breathe. Full breaths that begin from the belly. I looked in the mirror and breathed. Really breathed, letting my belly relax. I watched myself breath, hands over my lower belly and noticed that when I let myself relax I still look a little pregnant.

And that’s when I realized…

For ten years, I have not forgiven my belly for the herniated umbilical, the stretch marks, the extra folds of skin.

For ten years I have sucked it in, held my belly tight, never once purposefully allowing it to relax, never giving it a break.

I didn’t realize that I was punishing myself, that I was angry at and embarrassed by my form in the same way that for years, I was angry at and embarrassed by myself for not being who I thought I SHOULD be.

I never let myself rest. I chased awards, achievement, compliments, approval. I did everything in my power to avoid any kind of rejection, criticism or judgment from others.

And now I see… it is the same.

As I take a deep breath allowing my belly to do what it does I can tell you this, I can shout it from the rooftops:

I DON’T WANT TO BE THAT PICTURE ANYMORE.

In the same way that I embrace all the parts of me that I had been hiding away for so many years, I embrace the herniated umbilical, the stretch marks and the extra folds of skin.

No more hiding. No more double life.

I am grateful and proud of this incredible forty four year old body — for all that it has been through and all that it has done for me.

No more punishment. Only deep belly breathes.

Grapefruit is the oil of honoring the body.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nina October 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm

This is really beautiful. It touches on stages of self acceptance I think so many women will experience in this modern age. We all want to embrace our beauty, and part of that is letting go of the images of beauty others have projected onto us. When we can let go of the distraction of living up to an outside (ourselves) standard of beauty we can tune into our own unique vibration of it, and feel real beauty at last:)

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Amy October 6, 2017 at 1:42 pm

well said Nina!

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