The water was choppy and colder than I was used to, but on this triple-digit day there was no debate.
“It’s too hot”
“Right!?” He was faced-down on his towel, but the beads of sweat on his back agreed.
“I’m going in.”
I stood up, brushed the sand from my palms and pranced my completely naked, out-of-shape ass in front of everyone on the nude beach and walked.
As my body floated with the current, my belly and me had a moment. I laced my fingertips across my navel and exhaled with determination to get back into stripper shape. Fine – as close to stripper shape as a middle-aged broad can get.
“You just have to get all the way in, then it’s awesome!” I was thirteen again, bragging about how I had the balls to brave the cold (it only took the afternoon to submerge myself completely).
Once I was swimming, my eyes surveyed the people along the shore. It didn’t matter that my body wasn’t perfect. That a crowd of strangers saw my cellulite and buddha belly in motion. I was comfortable in my skin. I wasn’t happy with my body at the moment – but holy fuck – I was happy.
A swell lifted my body – and the water mirrored my breath – sighing with me in the realization of just how far I’ve come.
If you told me twenty-one years ago I’d be on a nude beach as an out of shape grown woman, or that I would spend my time on dry land tapping away, slicing a vein with every stroke of these keys, I would’ve snorted vodka out of my cocaine-encrusted nose in laughter.
I’ll never make it to forty.
I’m forty-five. The irony that I spent my 20s hiding behind my stage name and day-glow lingerie, and now, half way through my 40s revealing my deepest truths is not lost on me.
Two decades and one year ago this month, I was home; grabbing my skillfully balanced ankles in six-inch stilettos (we’re talking pre-clear heels, fellas) asking for a dollar with my smokey eyes and Chaka Khan hair. I sang in tune with Michael Hutchence, Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, Robert Smith and the like through the vibrating stage speakers hovering above the Plexiglass. The audience was mine.
Twenty-one years ago, I laughed at people who said, ‘and the like’.”
The most annoying thing about being young is hearing unsolicited advice. What blows? Getting older and realizing they were right.
The good news here is that as we age, our overall perception changes to accommodate the awareness-evolution of just who the hell we are. What we once considered beautiful may be on the bottom of our score card now (if we’re even keeping a tally anymore). Or maybe we’re too old to care. At some point, the comparisons and self-judgments become exhausting.
When I was on stage, channeling my inner Bob Fosse, I felt beautiful. Hidden under the spotlight. Living a dream that my skin was flawless and I wasn’t the Freddy Kruger-faced girl I was called in school. But each night I pulled the thick mane of over-sprayed hair from my face and witnessed the watercolors from my mask spinning down the drain, I’d level back into reality. I have scars.
Scars are ugly. I’m ugly.
Flipping channels the other night, I paused on Jane Fonda. She was talking about how long it took her to realize her worth and beauty.
I hear that, sister.
Before I realized the tears were falling, her words resonated: “We’re not meant to be perfect. We’re meant to be whole.”
Twenty-one years ago, I wouldn’t have understood. Now, I do.
Whole is flawed – loving yourself anyway. Whole is not giving a fuck – what anyone thinks. It’s releasing your worst critic – yourself – from shit that brings you down. After countless surgeries on my skin – whole is looking in the mirror and wrapping my arms around my scars, instead of pretending they don’t exist.
It’s hilarious that we only start to feel comfortable in our own skin until it starts going to shit. When we’re young and got it goin on, we still waste exorbitant amounts of energy worrying, comparing, complaining about how we don’t measure up. Always reaching, never marinating.
Even in our 20s, there’s a part of us we sell short. We kind of know better, yet something about our youth provides license to play the victim card and we roll with it. If you’re lucky – nobody lets you get away with feeling sorry for yourself in your 40s.
Twenty-one years ago, I danced on stage, my cellulite-free, coca buttered ass spinning on the pole to one of my favorite songs. Now, when I hear Beautiful Girl (INXS), I’m instantly transported. Only I’m no longer just beautiful in the shadows of the stage. I’m beautifully flawed; no make-up on a hot spring day, standing naked on a beach.