This morning I sat under an umbrella – pale freckled skin, big cancer years ago, teeny tiny skin cancer last year, ever careful – facing the tepid, soft waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I swam, I read, I had a beer, I ate some tempura (sounds so much posher than deep fried) shrimp. The whole time I was wearing a bright red swimming costume. Only a bright red swimming costume. A racing one, a speedo one, not a ‘sexy’ or ‘slimming’ one, and not in black either.
And I wasn’t hiding my body, I wasn’t shy of my body, I wasn’t covering up.
My body that has recovered from very ill, that supports me to do 3 or 4 jobs at once most of the time, the body that loves the water and yet, because I am not thin, because (since a v brief period around 5/6/7) I have mostly been a bit rounded, and def since puberty – and then add menopause to that! – I have always been shy about this body.
I swim, I’m loving going to the gym at the moment (so lucky to have Brockwell Lido up the road), I have always exercised, I used to dance (ballet, ballroom) and do gymnastics/tumbling (and have the dodgy ankles and ability to still do the splits to show for it), I have occasionally dieted, sometimes stupidly, sometimes desultorily, am quite enjoying trying (loosely!) my mate Kate Harrison’s 5:2 Diet … But I turned 50 this year and I STILL suffer from the (western, first world problem) stupid expectations of what a woman’s body should be. I’m delighted to feel strong and good in a red swimming costume at 50, but how I wish the 15/25/35 year old me could have felt the same. And I wish it to be better for your children and their children, because I know I doesn’t just affect girls these days.
I don’t know how we fix it, but I wonder if we just shared our body truths a bit more if it might help?
I’m in Florida for a book conference. Two weeks ago I delivered my 14th novel to my agent, I hope I’ll be getting her feedback tomorrow. Last week a show that I directed was on in the West End. Next week I’m going to Madrid to teach writing. I’m loved by my wife and lucky to have her, my siblings, my family and my great friends. And inside I’m still, often, a scared 15 year old who is screwed up about not being thin.
It’s getting better though. And 50 really helps. I wish I’d felt this way at 15. I wish we all did.
983584_10151776744513969_1714806488_nSt Pete Beach, today