my body doesn’t feel right

There once was a time when I was very concerned about the numbers on the scale. If I weighed what I considered my ideal weight, I’d be happy that day; if I weighed ideal weight +1, I’d be disappointed and down. I stopped weighing myself regularly a long time ago. These days, the numbers don’t mean much to me.

There once was a time, much more recently, when I didn’t much like how I looked. It wasn’t anything in particular, just a general uninformed dissatisfaction. A culturally determined not-good-enoughness. A little over three years ago, I started taking nude photos of myself, and really listening to Wolf’s compliments. These days, I’m pretty happy with how I look.

I’ve always been slim so it feels taboo to talk about issues around weight: I’m privileged and have never had to endure criticism the way many people do, but this is something that’s bothering me so I’ve decided to talk about it. Just know that none of this is intended as criticism of anyone else.

My weight has always been pretty stable, and the one time I gained a bit of weight was when I went to Japan to teach English. I was there on my own, had virtually no emotional support, was surrounded by a language I didn’t know (which is surprisingly tiring), and just found the whole thing exhausting.

What I probably needed was to work less, sleep more, and eat less carbs (I had a hell of a time with my blood sugar). What I did when I was tired was to eat the very excellent chocolate almonds I’d discovered. My clothes, which didn’t fit fantastically well to begin with (waistbands at the natural waist are anathema to short-waisted me), became a constant, uncomfortable reminder of an aspect of my physicality that I was not happy with. Buying new clothes wasn’t much of an option because they were designed for slim, boyish hips that I didn’t have. When I returned home, the weight came off without much effort on my part. I was in my 20s.

About two years ago, I was prescribed some medication that caused me to lose some weight. Effort free weight loss? OK! Eventually my metabolism got used to the meds and I gained most if not all of the weight back, but it wasn’t much to begin with and that was fine. I’ve since gone off this prescription.

Then, starting about the beginning of January 2017, I went on anti-depressants. I didn’t notice the weight gain at first because I rarely weighed myself. It’s a known side effect so I wasn’t too surprised or upset, but it kept going up. My weight after Japan was an upper limit that I got to a few times over the  years but never exceeded. Until now.

I’m pleased to report that the number on the scale doesn’t make me cry or otherwise ruin my day the way it once would have; in high school I could barely imagine being this weight and I viewed it as a curse of aging. I don’t see a difference in my face, and on the whole I’m still happy enough with how I look overall. So what’s the problem?

I don’t like how I feel. My thighs rub together in a way that they didn’t before.

My breasts feel heavy and have gotten a cup size bigger. Cry me a river, you might say. No, it’s not the end of the world, but I just don’t like it. I prefer having smaller breasts (I’d go so far as to say that’s part of my identity) and generally wear bras that downplay rather than enhance them. My dressy push-up bras are now overflowing, and one soft bra is completely unwearable. I bought a couple of linen shirts in November and they’re now almost indecent; popping shirt buttons is not a problem I’ve ever had before.

My belly has also gotten bigger for a few reasons: the weight gain, bloating caused by the medication on top of that caused by the IBS I appear to have developed about two and a half years ago, and possibly some loss of muscle tone.

I had a routine of exercises, some of which were assigned by a physiotherapist for problems directly or indirectly related to my back, and some “electives” including sit-ups. I quit doing these exercises about three months ago, first because it was very hard to keep them up while I was travelling, and then because my physio wanted to streamline my routine to be more effective and less time-consuming.

So my belly is noticeably softer than it was, which doesn’t exactly delight me, but what bugs me is that my clothes don’t fit. I now have only two pairs of pants that I can stand to wear, and they’re not great and showing signs of wear. I’m also aware of the sensation of extra flesh there; when I bend forward it feels like I’ve got a little cushion strapped to my front and it affects how I move.

This isn’t about whether I conform to Wolf’s preferences, or Jaime’s, or society’s. (In fact, Wolf prefers the way I look now and I’m very glad because that makes it easier for me not to stress too much about it.) But taking into account and accepting the reality of my build, this is about whether I’m satisfied with those aspects of my body that I have some kind of control over. And right now, I’m not satisfied because my body doesn’t feel right.

Prior to my trip three months ago, Jaime would send me instructions for what to wear everyday, but now this feels too difficult emotionally because it makes me even more aware of the clothes that don’t fit.

I am aware that a significant amount of my dissatisfaction stems from poorly fitting clothes and one obvious solution would be to buy new clothes, but I’m going to hold off on that for now. I’ve been off the meds for two months now and I’m hoping that eventually my metabolism will reset on its own. For one thing, it’s summer and easier to be active. I’ve also started doing some of my exercises again, I bought a bike, and I’m eating really well.

But that’s about as much as I’m prepared to do. I’m not going to punish myself by exercising like it’s a job, or counting calories and eating styrofoam and kale. If it turns out that this is my shape now, I guess I’ll deal with it and buy some new clothes. But it is possible to be dissatisfied with one’s body without it being an issue of self-esteem or unreasonable standards.

Sinful Sunday: arcs

Smooth. Taut. Toned. Strong.

arcs

The prompt this week is “minimalism“, which, as it turns out, is pretty much my style in a nutshell. So I took an image and made it even more minimal than usual.

I looked for quotes relating to hips and, other than the worn out “hips don’t lie”, I found nothing that was both pithy and positive. The catchiest sayings all expressed embarrassment and self-consciousness, as though the only purpose of hips is to collect fat, which is shameful obvs. As though by representing the widest circumference of most women’s bodies, hips are a sin against an incredibly limited and thus impoverished definition of beauty.

I don’t buy it. Hips are just curves, arcs. Some are curvier than others. No matter. Hips can be juicy and luscious. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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Sinful Sunday: sea change

I remember when Wolf took this photo. Japan, in winter. I had been teaching English since the summer and Wolf came to visit me for a couple of months. We had been together for three years before I left on this project. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, I was a few months away from signing up for my very first email account, at a Thai internet cafe.

I remember feeling very uncomfortable when he took this photo; I couldn’t wait to get dressed again. He tells me that when I finally saw the developed photo (which I think wasn’t until I came home again, so 6 or 8 months later), I was still just as uncomfortable with it.

I can tell you how I felt then: self-conscious, vulnerable, and vaguely ashamed. It felt wrong to do a topless photo even from the back. It felt wrong, not exactly to be seen that way, but to be looked at, never mind recorded.

Looking at the photo today, I remember those feelings fairly vividly, but I don’t actively feel them. Now I see what Wolf probably saw all along: a fit body, with strong arms and shoulders and back. Now I like how I looked. Now I see that it’s actually not a bad photo: good pose, direct sunlight, the shadow of the drapes, the warm tones of the tatami. (Though now I would make a point of eliminating the clutter of the kotatsu (table with heater and blanket – the red and grey in front of me) and the foam “couch” (covered with a blue and white sheet, in the background).)

Then I was deeply torn between my authentic self versus what I had been taught. Now I have discarded a lot of that incorrect teaching, and this photo seems to have a clarity and emotional simplicity that I never saw before. But since the photo hasn’t changed, the clarity must be in me. I identify with this photo so much more now than when it was taken, it’s almost like this was a glimpse into my future.

sea-change

I remind myself once again that it’s my body and my choice, and there’s nothing at all wrong with enjoying how my body looks and feels. I was taught the opposite at such a young age that it was never even put into words, but no matter how deeply ingrained that lesson has been, what I was taught was utterly wrong. It is not my truth and I reject it.

(Side note: I only really became aware that I had nice shoulders when someone complimented me on them about 5 or so years ago, and I started noticing my arms and back since I started taking photos for this blog, so within the last 2 years. I’ve been attributing my tone to belly dance, and yet this photo was taken a few years before I started. Huh.)

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Sinful Sunday: art class

When I was in university, I took an art class and one project was to make an image using only shapes cut from black and white paper. I found a little black and white nude photo in a fashion magazine illustrating, in a very tenuous way, some health story or other, and reproduced it for the project.

I liked how it turned out so I got it framed and it now hangs in my bedroom. It has become part of the wallpaper, as it were, and I only recently noticed that it matches the theme of this blog rather well, both in subject matter and style.art classMy interest in nudes is not new, it would seem.


Edit: Guest judge Innocent Loverboy chose my photo for the Sinful Sunday Weekly Round-up! Here’s what he had to say:

One of the things that I like about Sinful Sunday is how differently people take it, and this is a great way of showing off the body without taking off your clothes. Like Zoë, I was taken by the brilliance of this picture, the curves and contours of the model brilliantly contrasted in stark black and white.

Thanks ILB!

After I originally posted this image, I was having a hard time figuring out why it looked a little off to me. I’m sure it’s not an issue of wonky proportions. I eventually realized that the location of the picture in the bedroom means that I never look at it straight on as in this photo — I’m often looking up at it, which creates a foreshortening effect.

Also, I’m not the model for the image, though I think I look similar. I seem to have subconsciously noticed those similarities, snagged on the differences, and then concluded that the picture must be wrong! I think that means I’m feeling content with my body, and that’s a good thing.

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F4TF: naked

badge F4TF

The questions:

Are you at ease being naked? Do you feel more comfortable clothed or unclothed? Can you explain why you feel this way?

I’ve always been more comfortable clothed than unclothed. I recall one summer day when I was 5 years old, I was in the yard with my dad and I complained that I was too hot. He suggested that I take off my T-shirt; a little girl’s torso at that age is indistinguishable from a little boy’s torso, so no big deal, right? But even then I knew that girls and women don’t take off their shirts and I felt uncomfortable with it so I didn’t.

Eventually I internalized the notion (picked up indirectly from my mom) that a female body is at risk and invites real danger, and when that body is sexually mature, the risk is even more acute. Therefore, showing one’s body is dangerous. Breasts, as the most obvious sign of a girl’s sexual maturity, were especially problematic. When I was in high school, not only could I not bring myself to wear snug-fitting tops, I didn’t understand how other girls could. I was utterly baffled. If I had to go swimming, I would wear a one-piece bathing suit and feel self-conscious until I could hide myself in the hot tub.

I found it tremendously difficult to work up the nerve to try a belly dance class, but I’m so glad I did because it taught me to feel more comfortable in my body. One of the reasons why I originally gravitated to this particular style was that it was quite a bit more covered than most. After 9 years, I performed my first solo (in a slightly different style) and I had complete creative liberty with my costume. I wore a long, full skirt and a decorated bra top. I felt uncomfortable and exposed; it wasn’t easy, but I did it and the world didn’t end. Here’s a photo from that performance:

dance

Belly dance and figuring out the sexual shame issue have helped a lot, but the nude photography that I do for the blog has taken it to the next level. Like many people, I tend to regard my body critically. Using my body as a subject for art (yeah, I’m going to call it art) makes me look for the good stuff rather than fixating on the “bad” stuff. And simply spending time nude or topless for my little photo shoots has made me more comfortable with nudity. I used to ban Wolf from the room with dire threats, but now I just get on with it because I know he won’t interrupt.

I still skew modest, but I routinely wear clingy clothes and wearing a bathing suit is no longer a big deal. I’m OK with walking around the house briefly while nude, as long as I can’t be seen through the window. Wolf and I have sex with the lights on. I’m much more comfortable than I was.

 

body hair*

I’ve had my share of insecurities about my body, and like many women I’ve spent unnecessary energy being self-conscious about my body hair and how I “should” groom myself. I’m happy to say this issue no longer concerns me.

I shaved my legs for a couple of years in high school 1, and again for a span of months in university to please a dickish boyfriend 2, but I’ve been au naturel for a couple of decades now. I’ve always preferred wearing pants and shorts rather than dresses and skirts, but I’ve started wearing knee-length skirts over the last few years and I found that I was still a bit self-conscious about leg hair with a skirt. Eventually I realized that the hair is actually quite fine and can’t really be seen unless you’re close and looking for it. I suppose my legs aren’t red-carpet ready, but I can live with that.

Another realization I’ve had in the last few years is that I just don’t care about maintaining perfectly bare armpits. These days, I choose among shaving, trimming and benign neglect, as the mood strikes me. If I have a dance performance, I would trim, or even shave if I was feeling really motivated. For dance class, my strategy is wearing a T-shirt, or wearing a tank top coupled with “not giving a fuck”.

The place that I groom most carefully is the one that’s most hidden. I’ve always shaved fairly generously inside the bikini line, and about a year ago I started completely shaving underneath on a weekly basis. The remaining hair (on my mons) gets trimmed from time to time.

Which brings me to my trip with Gawan. I had planned to shave the hidden bits on arrival at our destination, but Gawan got to me before I did. 3 Though I’m not sure that ultimately made much of a difference to him.

He remarked — entirely without criticism or judgment, mind you — that it was more pubic hair than he’d seen on a submissive girl in, oh, five years or so. Now, what I’ve got is nowhere near full bush — one-third bush, maybe. More like a quarter. But it seems that the subby girls in his neck of the woods raze the bush completely. 4

Apparently I’m something of a novelty — or perhaps I’m revealing my lack of cred as a submissive. 5 I wouldn’t know. My cunt is the only one I’m familiar with.


1 The summer after I graduated, I was in the chorus of The Pirates of Penzance along with many other girls of a similar age. One day at rehearsal, it was reported to me (by Drift, a guy who would soon be my boyfriend, if he wasn’t already at that time) that the topic of conversation among them that day was the hair on my legs. Seriously. Fortunately I was secure enough at the time not to be unduly bothered by such natterings.

2 Surprise, surprise, this was Bad Boy. I had held out for months in the face of his whining. Eventually, I said I’d shave my legs if he shaved his. And so he did. I felt honor-bound to fulfill my end of the bargain. Which is a nutshell demonstration of my character — and his.

3 I much prefer a bath, especially for shaving, but our room only had a shower. And even to call it a “shower” is a bit generous, at least by first-world standards. The water pressure on our floor ranged from unenthusiastic at best to something more like a leak at worst, and there were only two temperatures — “unheated” and “if I’m not mistaken, I think the water might be slightly warmer than it was”. But the weather was very hot, so un-hot water wasn’t a total disaster.

4 A friend of mine — who is hot and blonde — was once asked “does the carpet match the drapes?” Despite being a very sensual if not sexual person, she somehow hadn’t heard the expression before and didn’t understand it, so she answered literally according to how her house was appointed. “I have hardwood,” she replied. The asker thought this answer was hilarious, and it does rather effectively and creatively suggest that she was in fact bare below.

5 This is a joke, by the way. Invocation of the idea of A True Submissive (or A True Dominant, for that matter) is bullshit but remains a common fallacy among people who think in black and white terms — there’s no rule book, no “one true way”. Also, while I’m interested in submission (and not dominance or switching), I don’t identify with it so much that I’d describe myself as “a submissive”. For one thing, I haven’t been inducted into the Sisterhood yet — I think their review of my use of capitalization may be holding up the process. 6

6 This is also a joke.

* Alternate titles: “I trim my quim according to whim” or “I’ve little care to spare for the hair down there — or anywhere”.

Gawan: nudity

When we arrived at our destination it was past bedtime and we were both drained. Immediately upon entering the stuffy space, I crossed the room to the air conditioner and turned it on, willing it to work. It did, thank goodness. We discussed sleeping arrangements and then crashed.

The next day, after a leisurely late breakfast, we headed out to explore the neighborhood and get the lay of the land. Upon our return to the room in the mid-afternoon, Gawan stripped nude without preamble.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that. I hadn’t spent any time imagining the scene, but it seemed that I had a kernel of an expectation — that this particular first would likely apply to both of us at the same time, and would have been preceded by kisses, caresses, meaningful looks, etc. Yet this nudity was unilateral and businesslike.

We had been out in sunny, hot and humid weather, the room air conditioner barely up to the task, and we were tired and sweaty. Eventually I twigged: he wanted to cool down faster, he’s very much at ease with his body, and whatever his criteria for feeling comfortable being nude around me, they had already been met. (Newsflash: nudity doesn’t necessarily mean sex.)

Despite the impression that this blog may give, I’m not actually in the habit of wandering about the house naked. But following Gawan’s example, I quickly got into a routine of stripping down to bra and panties to cool off after being out in the heat. After having a shower, I didn’t bother dressing or even trying to conceal the important bits with my towel, and not just because the towel was small enough to make such an effort essentially futile (unless held to my chest vertically, in the Japanese style).

I was also aware that there was really very little of me that Gawan hadn’t already seen either on the blog, or in a handful of images that I’d emailed. That was a little odd, and another first for me — that such thorough exposure had happened before I decided that he might be more than a friend and well before we ever were in the same space together. But it also helped me feel like it wasn’t that big a deal because, in one way, I’d already made the decision to be nude in front of him quite a while ago. (I suppose the oddest thing for Gawan may have been seeing my naked body with my head attached — the nude photos were headless, and the full body photos were clothed.)

It turns out that I’m much more comfortable with my body now than ever before, and that’s mostly because of this blog. The nude self-portraits have gotten me into the habit of looking for positives instead of flaws, and kind feedback, especially from the Sinful Sunday community, is tremendously encouraging.

I got used to my own casual nudity in Gawan’s presence quite quickly, and I developed an easy familiarity of the sort that I would ordinarily associate with a long-term relationship. My level of comfort with being naked shows that my change of attitude in that respect may be fundamental. And that’s a good thing.

Sinful Sunday: bathing suit

Sinful Sunday

I bought myself a new bathing suit a couple of weeks ago. It’s been ages since I last had a new one. It may be the end of summer here, but I’m planning a trip to someplace warm so it will see some use before next year.

My usual style is basic and understated. I do legitimately tend to prefer simplicity and clean lines, but understatement also served to avoid drawing attention to my body.

When I was in my late teens, experimenting a little with clothing styles, the flattering clothes garnered waaay more attention than I felt comfortable with. There was simple appreciation, and attraction, and sometimes competitiveness or judgment from women. It was a kind of power, I suppose, but not one I’d ever sought, and I felt I had no control over it. I felt that attention to my body was always sexually charged in some way, and I can now see why, in the context of my sexual shame and its ultimate source, such attention felt dangerous. So I covered up.

I’m feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin now, and I’m starting to fully possess and inhabit my flesh and curves. Because I’ve defused that shame by understanding its sources, being perceived as attractive doesn’t feel threatening the way it used to. I now choose clothes to please myself, and avoiding attention is no longer a goal. I’m not hiding anymore.

And that’s why I bought this very frivolous bathing suit.

bathing suit 1

bathing suit 2

bathing suit 3

Boobday: keeping it simple

I’m keeping it very simple for Boobday this week. No clothes, no jewelry, no props. Monochrome, no color editing. Just me, my bathroom mirror and a wee bit of cropping.

Boobday simple

Body image can be remarkably persistent, despite one’s actual appearance.

I have always thought of myself as small-busted, and I was always completely content with that – in fact, small was my preference. I started wearing a bra relatively late, and even in university I was comfortable without one as long as I was wearing a snug stretchy top. When I had my first (and only) professional bra fitting, I learned that I fit a B-cup. B! I had only ever worn an A up to that point.

For years, my go-to bra style has been a pullover soft bra with elastic around the ribcage and no cup size to speak of. My ribcage measurement (which is small) hasn’t really changed, and the bras have a minimizing effect, which I was totally OK with. But as a result, I didn’t really notice that my breasts had gotten a bit bigger.

And then while I was in the UK, I gained a little weight, most of which seems to have gone to my breasts. On the numbers and proportions, they are now definitely “not small”, but somehow this continues to surprise me, despite evidence such as the photo above.

cock thoughts