body image

Bodies That Matter

by Becky on August 3, 2017

in Right Life, Travel

Agkali-27As Ms. D and I sat on the rocks where the famous thermal waters gush from the earth in Aidipsos, a town on the northwest coast of Evia, we noted how utterly unconcerned the people around us seemed to be about their bodies. “Blithe abandon” is what I’d call it. “Blithe” because: you’re on a Greek island where steaming hot mineral water pours into the ocean as if from a spigot. And “abandon” because, well, who CARES whether you look like an American Ninja Warrior? (The answer is, exactly nobody cares; they’re all too busy relaxing or swimming or chatting up their friends who are also relaxing/swimming.) Come on, you’re not going to feel positively loopy about the prospect of lounging right in the sweet spot where the heat from that beautiful water meets the cool of the sea? Who cares what you look like in your bathing suit, right??

So, Ms. D and I, we soaked in the hot coolness. Or maybe it was the cool heat. And we had this long conversation about Americans’ preoccupation with what they view as their bodies’ deficiencies. I remarked that I’d personally heard Brené Brown give the women at the Mom 2.0 Conference a set-down for never putting their bathing suits on. “What kind of message are you sending your daughters!?” she wanted to know. And she’s right.

Ms. D and I also talked about how received notions about beauty virtually cripple us from the time we’re young. Years ago, for example, when I subscribed to Seventeen magazine, I’d spend whole summer days pouring over those pages and those pictures, comparing myself to the young women I saw there. Consciously or not, I always found myself deficient by comparison. Geez, what a waste of time! And what a perfect recipe for a lame self-story that featured me as not-so-perfect instead of Me as Bloom-in-progress. Indeed, our preoccupation with unrealistic (and these days, airbrushed) standards of beauty keeps us focused on what we view as our lack–at the expense of learning to flex our wisdom muscles or especially our kindness muscles more consistently.

But the Greeks and the other Europeans who’d come to “take the waters” that afternoon with Ms. D and me? Didn’t matter the size, the shape, the age: everyone was suited up for the bathe, and absolutely NO one seemed to care whether their proportions were acceptable to anyone else.Agkali-25b

Man, it was inspiring.

There was a little trio of women perched on the rocks near us. I’m guessing they were somewhere in their sixties. One of them had on a bikini. Moreover, she’d taken the time to apply bright, fire-engine-red lipstick before getting wet. Why she felt she needed red lips while stretched out in that steamy water, I don’t know, but I’m still smiling as I think about her. One of her companions had on what appeared to be all her best gold jewelry. Rings, bracelets, earrings–the whole, gold shebang. I love that she wanted to sparkle while she soaked. Oh, those gals laughed and laughed and laughed together. I found myself itching to know what was so funny. But more than that, I wholeheartedly admired their blithe abandon.

Look, bodies matter because they offer mobility, flexibility, strength, and moment-by-moment collisions with our senses.  But let’s not mistake our flesh for ourselves.  And let’s not misread opportunities to get in the water as opportunities to be shamed for all our perceived body flaws.  If the Greeks’ blithe abandon taught me anything that afternoon at Aidipsos, it’s that the business of really feeling the water with your friends works better when you let go of the need to feel a certain way in your suit.

But hey, I’m good at preaching. Let’s see if I can walk my talk next time I hit the beach with the Eleven O’Clock Kids!

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