This post was inspired by Erica Jagger’s November 19th piece “Making Peace with my middle-aged breasts”
And if your sexual currency is based mainly on your appearance — something you did nothing to earn — then you will find yourself hemorrhaging self-worth
I almost cried when I read these words because it’s exactly how I feel. My sagging breasts, my dimpled belly, and the wattle on my neck have exsanguinated my self-worth. But in my defense, my familial culture taught me that it was better for girls to be pretty than smart. I always felt my sister had the more positive attention because she was the “pretty one” and I was the “smart one”. I’ll never forget asking my mother if she thought I was pretty. I was eleven, gawky, stringy hair, coke bottle glasses, a mouth far too big for my face…I knew the answer. Hell, I saw the answer in the mirror.
“Oh honey, we can’t all be pretty. Isn’t it nice you are smart?”
Well I fooled them. I grew up pretty. I didn’t realize it until decades later. I always assumed people were turning and looking as I walked in a room because I was very tall. I knew my unconventional looks were striking but I never considered myself one of the “pretty ones”. I was fifty—ten years past the expiration date–when I owned and realized what a beautiful woman I had been. For the first time in my life I felt pretty even then. I had always just considered myself “well put together”. Making good use of what little you have.
But even though I didn’t feel like I was one of those beautiful women I did put all of my “self worth and sexual currency” in the looks I had and my body. Coincidentally, I realized this sad truth about myself about eight hours before reading Jagger’s article when I caught a glimpse of my breasts in the mirror as I changed for bed.
“I have old lady breasts.” I said to no one but myself.
It was a shaming statement and those four words and the ensuing hard critical stare I gave myself proved the nexus of my self-worth rested in my physical appearance. It turned into a litany of unhealthy self-talk:
“ Look at this old body. I’m past the use by date.” I was about to spiral into a pit of self-doubt, self-loathing and self-pity.
I stopped the trifecta of gloom when I remembered a lover just the other night running a hand over my breasts and murmuring about how beautiful they were and how “gorgeous” I am.
Perhaps if I stop comparing myself to twenty year olds or women of a certain age with mortgage busting plastic surgery, and porn stars, I’ll manage to piece together pride in my body. Despite the sagging muscle tone my muscles are stronger than they have ever been and my core strength is better than it was when I was twenty-five.
And then there is my brain. My brain has developed past body shame/shyness I suffered when I was nubile. I can hot tub with friends completely relaxed in my nudity. I can make love with the lights on. I never did those things as a younger woman because I was too shy and pent up sexually. I can revel in wave after wave of orgasmic stimulation and be in a complete trance during love making because I am so in tune with my sex and what she desires and needs for climatic pleasure. This too is a first for me and has nothing to do with the firmness of my ass or my breasts. But rather it has to do with an agile and fertile imagination.
But I remain—when I am alone in my room and devoid of outside admiration—ashamed of my sagging and shrinking breasts.
There needs to be a balance met somewhere in the middle of the Ashamed Crone and the Empowered Sex Goddess. (You can laugh here, I am) I need to bottle up that energy and power I feel when I’m in the midst of the incredible sex I’m experiencing in my thirty plus year history of having sex.
The easy way out is to blame “society” and “the youth culture” but really I’ve only myself to blame. I’m responsible for moving past all those cultural things what “beautiful” is supposed to look like. I’m working towards this. I surround myself with images and words written by empowered women of a certain age. The only person at fault here is me. I must pull all the beautiful power and intellect possessed on the inside and make that who I am. I am not just my shapely legs, I am not my rounded hips, and I’m not my elongating breasts.
I am a bundle of creative energy, with an imagination goes to scary places or hopelessly romantic places. I am sinewy with compassion. I am ripe with knowledge. My confidence is nubile. My heart is lush with an eager love I share openly. I am rich with the appreciation for the life I have now. So why do I “hemorrhage” my self worth when I look at my naked body in the mirror.
That needs to stop.
I put the tourniquet on the fatal wound when I did pin up and boudoir photos a few months ago. I twist the tourniquet when I write about feeling sexually empowered for the first time at 53; Another twist to the tourniquet is owning how ridiculous it is to compare my present body to my twenty year old body. Sure she was prettier but she was a bundle of insecurity and made bad decisions based on those insecurities.
I would much rather have sagging breasts and weird wrinkles on my belly around my naval than make those half-assed decisions I made when I was twenty. That is the alum on the wound.
So sag on breasts! Isn’t it marvelous Victoria Secret has a bra for that?