Naked Women in All Their Glory

7/25/2011

I remember watching old women in the swimming pool locker room when I was young.  They would sit on a bench, totally at ease with their nakedness.   I would stare, appalled, and fearful of what might lie ahead.

I was in shape, an athlete, young in years and undeveloped in my path.  I had not yet suffered a broken heart.  I had not yet suffered the death of someone dear.  I had not yet opened my arms to a newborn.  I had not yet been moved to tears by the kindness of a friend.  I had not yet fully loved.  I was not fully formed.

After Swimming, Age 10

At 15, I was alarmed by the sagging breasts of old women I glimpsed in the locker room.  I tried not to look at women who stood with crooks in their backs, bunions on their feet, stretch marks, folds, thinning hair and wrinkled skin.  They looked old and pitiful to me. It was hard to imagine I would ever be like that. 

I would dress as quickly as I could so I could get out of the locker room.  I didn’t want to see others nor did I want anyone to see me.  That’s the way it was with all the girls on the swim team.  We were in and out of that place as soon as our thick hair was dry.  I couldn’t figure out why those older women were so relaxed in the nude and so slow about moving out.  Much later, I would understand.

A wise woman once told me that time is a friend to those who wish to know.  She said often that strong women are equally good at being soft.  Advice poured forth from her–some sought but much unsolicited. She told me once that she never got out of bed before her children left for school.  She’d have the housekeeper get them up and send them off while she remained undisturbed with tea and toast in bed.  I remember being quite puzzled that she would consider this a good thing to share, particularly in light of her shared philosophical views of strong and soft women.  It seemed unnatural, inattentive, hardly soft. 

When my kids were nearly grown I finally asked her about this practice.  She referred to the guidance given by flight attendants that given an emergency, you must secure your own oxygen mask before helping your loved ones to secure theirs.  She said she had been overwhelmed by the struggle of raising 6 kids in the 1950s until she took up her early morning solitude routine.  That bit of quiet time in the morning allowed her to recharge her nurturing battery so she could be energetic and attentive to those kids from the moment they got home from school.   Granted, not many can rely on someone else to take charge while they snooze.  But her point remains.  Only by taking care of yourself can you take care of those you love.  And only by loving yourself can you love and be loved.  Common wisdom with a twist of her own personal experience.  A life lesson she shared with me. 

My Wise Grandmothers (and my grandfathers)

She was one of many older women who have kindly shared their wisdom with me.  Grandmothers, my mother, a couple of teachers, friends and mentors.  The older women who have most influenced my life taught by example and spoke wise words full of experience and understanding.  More depth.  Less judgment.  More compassion.  Truth. 

Occasionally of late, I’ve been asked by younger women for my own words of wisdom.  I guess the baton has been passed to my generation since we have now marked a fair number of life’s milestones.  And as those milestones were reached, the years have passed and those experiences have shaped our souls.  And while all that was going on, our bodies have been reshaped too, to various degrees.

It is ironic in some sense that when we are young and perfect in body we are so imperfect in our sense of self.  Some are wise beyond their years, but most not.  Most of us need those years and the gift of time to understand what we need to understand and to know what is important to know.  Wisdom is truly a gift of experience and age. 

My wise mother

And so I now understand naked old women in the locker room.  They are content in their nakedness for they love who they are.  They are proud not of perky breasts but proud of their depth of soul instead.  They fear not stretch marks for they do not judge.  They are compassionate of wrinkles, bunions, thinning hair, crooked backs and folds.  For they have become wise women. 

I am honored when I am asked by a younger woman to share what life has taught me to know.  For perhaps that means I am on my way to becoming a wise woman.  A strong, soft, gloriously naked, wise woman.

31 thoughts on “Naked Women in All Their Glory

  1. I have found more comfort, peace and happiness as I grow older and, hopefully, wiser. And I agree completely that taking time out for myself is as loving to others as it is to myself. I’m not nearly as fun to be around when I’m overtired and over-exerted. Taking care of myself is the most important thing I can do to live a happy life.

  2. What a wonderful post. I’m an introvert and an old lady now (when did that happen?) so I’ll return to read it more than once. Your experiences in this post resonate with me. I start every day in solitude. I don’t connect with anyone else for an hour and a half after I get up. It’s a very important date that I keep with myself.

    P.S. I love the way you included your mom’s image at the end. Her smile is so beautiful.

  3. True enough. So many people equate their body with themselves, but their body is just a sleeve that gets wrinkled over many years of wear. It’s not THEM. Eventually they’ll discard it and get another.

    • Oh, I so love how you put that. “their body is just a sleeve that gets wrinkled over many years of wear.” How true and a great reminder that our souls, heart and actions speak louder than anything. This piece really touched me. Thank you for your insight. When I am an old woman I imagine myself running to the beach and stripping off all the layers of clothing to just exist, with no worries, in the sun, and sand and water….no insecurities. No regrets.

  4. This post is brilliant. I was the horrified, fine-tune-ab-ed girl in the locker room not that long ago. You are right that I was so insecure in myself at that point, despite the skinny size and glowing tan. I like myself now, saggy mom boobs and all 🙂

  5. I’m reminded of that line in the “Desiderata” that says “surrender gracefully the things of youth.” I suppose one could extrapolate and say “accept gratefully the wisdom of age.” I suspect you have brought to light many memories for all of us of those sages that have touched our lives.

    As usual, a pleasure reading such an insightful post.

  6. This was lovely – well written, and a touching tribute to the beauty of experiences, well-earned. I am trying to adopt this attitude as I age, but can I have the perky boobs, too?

  7. I know I am fit and healthy but don’t share how my body looks now with many others.
    I have a little ritual too. I get up make a cup of tea and sit quietly with it for about half an hour before starting my day. Glad there are others that do this – Mind you when the family were around there was no quiet start to the day. Wisdom…well that’s another story.

  8. This was so beautiful. You described how I feel, and I didn’t even know I felt this way. I have never minded my age (well, turning 30 threw me, believe it or not, but after that, I didn’t care). I have found my view of life to be evolving, just like I am. The only thing about getting older that frightens me a little is that it means I have less time to spend with my loved ones. That’s why I make each moment count. Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  9. Wonderful blog.. and an offering on what to present to those younger women who look to us as role models. My 5 year old granddaughter proclaimed me as really old a few weeks ago, she said I was all wrinkly. It was really funny in a way though I found myself protesting that her greatgrandmother was older, instead of claiming my age. My grandmother, who died in her mid-60s was one such wise, carefree woman -comfortable in her skin. Thank you for reminding me of the ways she could continue to be a role model for me.

    • Thanks Walker. Both of my grandmothers lived to be nearly 100. I don’t think I can remember a time when they were not wrinkly. Both were happy and wise. Both outlived their husbands by 35 or so years and went on to create fulfilling, independent lives. Good inspiration, really.

  10. “strong women are equally good at being soft”… Love you for saying this…. I needed to hear my own grandmothers words tonight… when I feel soft…or weak, I think of her and the struggles she has had…

    I love your stuff Bella…as for you girls, i think I scare you… LMFAO…. =)

    T.

    • T–Love men who are strong enough to be soft…..not all are. Thanks for checking in here. Haven’t been called a girl for a while, so thank you. You definitely do something for us, but not sure I’d say you scare us 🙂 Keep it up.

  11. I’m enjoying perusing your blog. This post was especially moving. I can relate to everything you described and presented here so beautiful. I’m going to subscribed to your blog via email so I won’t miss anything else!

  12. My children taught me that the best way for them to learn a lesson was by experience. My wisdom didn’t become theirs until they had tested my advice for themselves! And that is what I like best about being older. I can give advice based on many experiences, and that makes my advice broader and deeper.

  13. The price of wisdom is our youth and youthful bodies. I intend to write God a letter about this. Perhaps I can convince God to amend the Plan just a bit so we could remain at late 40ish or early 50ish so we could have some wisdom and retain a bit of youth albiet a tad oldish. I’ll let you know.

  14. This was an excellent and beautiful post… and I’m so glad I came upon it by chance. When I was a boy, I had almost no positive contacts with other children… and got to know the old people around. I searched out the wise ones, especially. I have treasured what I learned from them all my life. I took physical well being for granted. But the look of youth was never something I worried about losing. Very glad for you, that you learned to accept yourself, and have found other beauties than what you appreciated as a young girl. You definitely sound like a woman who knows what matters.

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