These are the things that are hardest to say. Sometimes I want a badge of honor just for being in this body. Sometimes I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “But you don’t understand … how hard it is to be this open, this loving, this sexual … in this body!” I’ve gone out of my way to obliterate any shame around my body …even being naked on TV (along side drop-dead gorgeous people with perfect bodies) in attempts to flush this out of my system. But shame and fear and self-hatred still show up in the most insidious ways.
I often give myself a reality check. I know I am not ugly. I know in the larger scheme of things, what matters is that I’m healthy, mobile and whole. I am grateful for that. I have some attributes many find attractive: curves, full lips, curly hair, dainty hands and feet. And though I find myself to be horrible at flirtation and seduction, I learned early on how to bypass that with being sexy or overtly sexual at the right moments and refreshingly authentic or inadvertently endearing with my shyness the rest of the time.
I’ve always been surrounded by beautiful people. On my long list of close friends and lovers over the course of my adult life, I can really only count maybe 3 or 4 that I could say would be judged as less “physically attractive” than I am (by traditional, superficial standards), and the vast majority of them would be considered to be exceptionally more attractive than I am. Do I wish I never thought these thoughts? Yes. Do I wish I could evaporate all tendencies to compare from my being? Yes. Am I there yet? No.
What am I grateful for in this? It’s made me who I am. I don’t have a type. And while, yes, I feel more attracted to some physical traits over others, I am generally not called into emotional or physical intimacy with someone by their outward appearance alone. (And, as I said earlier … I would say that the majority of my lovers would be considered in the top 10% of the beauty gene pool … so am I just an insane hypocrite? In my defense, I can say that at least there is a huge variation in age, shape, size, and color of my lovers.)
Every time a woman I am close to, who is totally height/weight proportionate with perky breasts and perfect skin, worries about her body out loud, I cringe. What does she see in me? If she can’t even see herself as beautiful, what the hell does she see in me? And at the same time, I have compassion. I know we all have a similar self-critical soundtrack. And I know that stunningly beautiful women get so much attention for how they look over a lifetime that the volume of that message intensifies as they identify their worth with being desired. (And am I any different, when I identify my worth with lack of being desired?)
Why is this keeping me up at night? A potent conversation with a dear friend last week, whom I asked, “Who are you when you aren’t desired? Can you remember a time when someone you wanted to connect with didn’t want to because they weren’t physically attracted to you?” She couldn’t.
And then in the next moment she seemed flabbergasted when I owned that I wished to be desired even by men and women that I did not feel desire for. She didn’t get why I would mourn or crave that which I didn’t actually want for myself. I don’t know, maybe to make up for all the times I haven’t been chosen?! To have the feeling of abundance, or at least like it didn’t seem like winning the lottery when someone actually felt genuine desire for me.
As I am writing this, the guiltier I am feeling. I know I have had way more love and sex in my life than so many on this planet. For many reasons of course, but one of them being that I am indeed more physically attractive than many people. So this seems like a somewhat pathetic “woe is me” from the low-budget end of the land of the pretty people.
A few other factors are exacerbating this inquiry too: aging, Bali (overrun with size-2 yoga girls), and dating a specimen of a 24-year-old and wondering if he is ashamed to be seen with me. Aging. I’ve always been excited about getting older and wiser. But this was the first year (at 35) that I became concerned about the wrinkles in my face and when I realized with some urgency that I should really start appreciating the last remnants of gravity defiance happening in my breasts—that NOW is the time to get in the right relationship with my body before it really starts to show its age. Did I mention that in my work and community, I am often required (consensually and mostly happily) to be partially or fully nude with people? Seriously, the time is NOW.
I’ve survived this long by virtue of my rebelliousness, of my “fuck you, I am going to wear a bikini while overweight because I love the ocean and you can’t stop me from swimming in it with your judgmental glares.” There are plenty of other “fuck yous” I’ve used to cope, but sadly most of them fall into the comparison game … I may not be as beautiful as you, but I’m smarter, more talented, deeper, more real, more creative, more successful, more aware … blah blah blah. Comparison on repeat, every which way … boring, exhausting, and hypocritical. This mindset has me flip-flop wildly from pseudo-overconfidence (I can have anyone in the room I want) to total defeatism (I shouldn’t even go to the party when I will be the least attractive one there).
Today a comment from a friend picked exactly at this weird limbo land for me. In one breath he mentioned all the “hot women living in my house” in a way that was clear it excluded me from that list, and then more reverently (to embarrassingly remove his foot from his mouth) followed up with “and then of course there is the queen of them all … Ms. Devi Lalita.” It felt like a punch in the stomach and then a pat on the back. And pragmatically, yes I live with a lot of hot women, some of which are my lovers … and while I may not be the eldest of the bunch, perhaps my grounded mature presence earns me some devotion points that are as valuable as physical beauty, or maybe I can just settle for “hot” by association. 🙂
However, there is a piece of this that is even worse than comparison for me. It is the ingrained self-consciousness. The ways I move my face and body to hide certain things. The acute awareness and fear I have of being seen from certain angles that makes me terrified of cameras and avoid several body positions. It’s so much mental effort for such little payoff. You see me how you see me—I have no control over that. I’m not that vigilant to be 100% effective, so why do I even try? I dare to imagine that my beauty probably shines through the most in the moments when all of that is gone. When I’m radiantly making love to you, do you see my double chin? When I’m holding you when you cry, are you noticing my cellulite? It’s definitely not in my awareness in those moments.
If only I were in service and in love in every moment of my life—this would be a non-issue, right? Well, luckily this is what I came to Bali to do. These last seven months have been a deep dive into everything that is standing between me and effortless alignment with love, service, and Reality. This piece needed to come out. It’s embarrassing for sure. So be it.
In conclusion … yes, often I grok the radiance of my beauty, of ALL OF OUR beauty, inside and out without any comparison and am 100% grateful for my life exactly how it is. But the unavoidable truth is that I still find myself momentarily hating many of you for having the bodies I want, the desire I crave, the relationships I envy. And now, I humbly pray to be naked in every which way, happy and free from the self-consciousness that has haunted my mind in far too precious of moments, and to let all the ugly hiding and the comparing fall away forever.