A few scribbles about body image, motherhood and me…
I can honestly say I’ve never heard my mum talk about her weight. She never speaks about her body or what she would like to change and if she’s ever been on a diet I certainly haven’t know about it. It was through this lens (that what you don’t say as a mother is just as important as what you do) that I grew up feeling good about my body.
As I went through my teen years, I became all limbs and awkward. Most of the time I wished for what I didn’t have. Boobs. Straight hair. Straight teeth. And then a photographer called Spencer Tunick came to town. Known for his photos of mass nude installations, Tunick put the call out for volunteers to meet at Flinders Street Station. So, at dawn one Sunday morning I joined about 5,000 other people in getting their kit off.
This sort of thing was beyond any realm of my comfort zone. Stripping off terrified me. Being seen scared me even more. But as I lay on that bridge and looked at all the different bodies, all the different shapes and all the different ages I had my first glimpse at the beauty of vulnerability.
I’d always been the good girl who did the right thing. I went to the good university and got good grades. I had the good boyfriend and worked hard at my good part-time job. But I was pretty miserable in myself and as cliched as it sounds felt thoroughly lost. So, when I turned 21, I decided to travel for the first time on my own. The plan was to have just 10 days in Byron Bay. But once I got there I didn’t want to leave. So, I didn’t.
Along the way, I met a boy who shared my bunk! We’d get up at dawn and find some waves on an empty beach. He’d surf and I’d sit wrapped in our towels on the sand. But one morning, I decided I’d take a dip. Since I didn’t have my bathers, I stripped off and waded into the sea. Diving through the waves I felt a salty freedom that had been missing in my buttoned up life.
No one tells you that once you become a mum, your body becomes functional. From a big pregnant belly and feeding your babe, to little limbs wrapped around you as you sleep and a bathroom door that never stays shut – you become shared. It’s not a bad thing, it’s beautiful and connected. But it’s also easy to lose yourself along the way.
Summer is fading and I had the realisation that lately I’ve been living squarely in my comfort zone. So the other day I went to a nude beach. After all, when was the last time I tried something new? While being nude in the bedroom doesn’t faze me, going starkers in public (and the midday sun!) felt downright confronting. It challenged my body image like nothing I have done for a long time.
Standing with the sun at my back, I slipped my dress off and stood there. Nude. Exposed. Uncomfortable. But as I dove into the water, I felt that same salty freedom return. Somewhere along the line, with ‘growing up’ I thought I had lost it – but it was there all along.