“Do you think maybe it was a mistake to break up?” I said to a former boyfriend during a phone conversation, 3 months after he ended our relationship. I was devastated and unable to heal. He kept calling me.
Our relationship had lasted several years, my first real boyfriend. He encouraged me to lose weight, and I did. I lost over 80 pounds and wore size 12, the lowest I’d ever weighed as an adult. I ran four miles almost daily and my eating was disordered. Still, my body never seemed to fit his ideal. He had found my Achilles heel. Deep down, I knew that my body was unlovable and so was I. I could never be good enough for love.
“I wasn’t happy. I just don’t see us making progress and growing together,” he responded.
“Well, what does that look like?” I asked.
“Both of us would be lean and fit, going to the gym regularly, looking good.”
“That’s interesting because to me, it means that our lives would merge, we’d spend more time together and think about sharing a home.”
“Well, I see the two going hand in hand,” he replied.
In that moment, I shifted from insecurity to rage.
“FUCK YOU!” I shouted before I slammed down the phone. Then I called him back and told him that I was lovable. I vowed to find someone who would appreciate and love me.
It was my first act of self-love. I was 46 years old. It took me years after that to fully embrace that I’m lovable just as I am. Yes, even my body is lovable.
I had years of conditioning. For as long as I could remember, I knew that my body wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t just self-comparison with idealized bodies in the media. It started with my family.
“Laurie, hold your stomach in. Your clothes will look so much better.”
– my mother when I was 5 on the first day of kindergarten
“No Laura, you can’t take dance lessons. You don’t have a dancer’s body. You can take tumbling lessons instead.”
-my father when I was in first grade
“You have such a pretty face. But you’ll never have a boyfriend if you don’t lose weight.”
-my grandfather when I was an adolescent.
“Your periods aren’t regular because you need to lose weight.”
– a doctor when I was 16
“You are very intelligent and have strong leadership qualities. But you will never succeed to your potential unless you lose weight.”
-the dean of students when I was a freshman in college
I hated my body. It was my biggest flaw, the most unworthy and unlovable part of me. No matter how hard I tried to control my body with diets and exercise, I couldn’t force it into the size and shape that others thought it should be.
I disconnected from my body for most of my life. I tried so hard to just accept my body and make peace with it. I did my best to get rid of negative self-talk, stopping the critical voices in my head that came up from my childhood and past. I gave myself positive affirmations. The best that I could do was sometimes call a temporary truce with hating my body. Always, deep down I believed that my body was unacceptable and unlovable, that I was unacceptable and unlovable. My body was my burden, a source of shame and deep emotional pain.
My relationship with my body started to shift with my first Bodysex Workshop. It seemed impossible for me to be naked in a circle of women for two days. My head told me that everyone in the circle would see my flawed, unacceptable self. I imagined looks of disgust, side glances, and negative comments. Yet, my gut told me that being in a Bodysex circle was the right path. I wanted to learn from Betty and be in her presence. Reading Betty’s work, watching Betty and Carlin’s YouTube videos as well as the Bodysex Documentary gave me hope that being in a circle would change something in me. Somehow, I managed my fear and found my courage to sign up for a workshop in May 2016. I was 57 years old.
I was dripping in sweat as I entered Betty’s apartment building, went up in the elevator, and walked down the hallway to her door. I knocked. Carlin opened the door, naked with a big smile.
“I’m so nervous, I’m sweating bullets,” I said in a rush.
“Come in and take your clothes off. You’ll feel better” said Carlin. “Then go in the room and find a spot in the circle.”
I felt everything was in slow motion as I took off my clothes and hung them on a hook in the hallway. I chose a spot between some empty spaces. It all felt like an out of body experience, yet I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. What was I doing here? There were a few other women who had arrived before me. We were all mostly quiet, listening to Carlin welcome the other women. When everyone arrived, I noted that I was the fattest woman in the room. I compared and criticized my body. Then I disconnected, physically present without emotion.
My body was there but the rest of me felt far away. At first, I was both excited and intimidated to see Betty as she took her place in the circle. Her presence was commanding and calming at the same time. After her opening comments, Betty looked at each of us in turn going around the circle. Our eyes met. Betty saw me, she saw my body. I felt no judgement. Then each of the women shared. I heard almost every woman talk about something that they disliked about their body, When I looked at every one of these women, I saw their physical beauty and strength. In the circle, there was only acceptance. That felt good. I gradually came into my body and became fully present. Maybe I could stop my self-judgement and accept myself too.
By the end of the first day of the workshop, I felt more comfortable in my own skin. The next day, I didn’t sweat it as I walked down the hall to Betty’s apartment. In fact, I was eager to get there, take off my clothes, and be in the circle. I’d never felt so free to be myself with unconditional acceptance. It started me on a path to healing my shame and finding true love.
Self-work and healing is a shifty process, sometimes inconspicuously happening under the surface. But I know exactly when I truly fell in love with my body. It happened during an extended masturbation session, a couple of years and a few workshops after that first one.
It was a summer afternoon with the sunlight peeking around the window shades creating a dim light in my bedroom. I was naked on top of my soft cotton duvet, feeling a gentle, pleasant breeze from the open windows moving across my skin. I took my time as I touched my body and massaged my vulva. As I built up my arousal with my Magic Wand, I spoke out loud all the things that I’d like to hear from a lover as I touched my body. But it was me speaking to myself.
“My hair feels long and silky under my fingertips.”
“My lips tingle as I circle my tongue around them. I am so kissable.”
“My breasts feel so plump and soft.”
“My hard nipples are so tasty and sweet.”
“My wet pussy smells so delicious.”
I had a tremendous toe-to-head orgasm, truly one of the biggest I’d ever had.
As I basked in the bliss of the afterglow, I put my hands on the source of my greatest body shame – my large round belly. As I moved my hands all over my stomach, I felt a warm energy and a deep feeling of love. Tears rolled down my face, just as they are right now as I write. My shame was erased, and I felt only love.
For me, true self- love had to begin with finding acceptance and love for my body. My experiences in Bodysex circles gave me a model for nonjudgement and self-acceptance. I learned that I didn’t have to be perfect in anyone’s eyes to be worthy of love. Betty and the women in every Bodysex circle gave me permission to love myself just as I am. I am worthy.
I finally found someone who loves and appreciates me just as I am. It was within me all along. I love you, Laura.
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