The other woman, I'll call her "Eve," hung up her towel and began an intense 15 minute conversation with me about the new training program she is trying. The entire time, she is stark naked. And she isn't bone thin. She's an overweight 40-ish woman who is standing there completely naked.
I'm polite and maintain incredible eye contact throughout the conversation. Because I don't want her to be uncomfortable.
Because I don't want her to know she's my new hero.
Yes, this woman is my hero. Why? Because she stood there in all her glory, holding a conversation, without ever appearing to be self-conscious about her nakedness. She didn't use her hands to cover up anything. She leaned against the wall, she moved around. She was into the conversation and didn't appear to be constantly thinking, "how do I look?"
I was programmed at an early age to hate my body. The message I received from my mother and certain female relatives was that unless I was thin, I was not worthy. You could have warts all over every surface of your face and be the meanest, nastiest woman ever, but if you were thin...wow, you were gorgeous!
As a young child, I remember having multiple conversations with these same women. They went something like this:
Them: If you don't lose weight no boy will ever ask you out. You'll never go to prom.Or having my mother tell me how disgusted my father was with me because I was fat. "Dad's boss asked him if you were dating anyone and he told him 'she looks like a football player, who would ever date her?' " said my mother. Wow, that's a great way to boost your daughter's self esteem.
Me: (Since I was all of nine or 10, I wasn't as witty as I am now) Really?! (Even then I recognized the horror of not being worthy of a man's attention because it was so important to these women.)
Them: Yes, no one likes fat women. You need to do something about it now.
Or having the nickname "Suey" during high school. Of course, they didn't call it bullying then. And my mother wasn't sympathetic at all. Because she agreed with them.
Even after moving away from home and coming to ChiBurbia where I lived with one of these same women and her husband, the "little talks" continued. Too fat. Not pretty enough. Not date-able. I was 20 years old and being berated about my weight. By people who didn't even really know me!
This is why Eve is my hero. Because those voices, those snippets of conversation, apparently aren't running through her head. I would love to ask her how she got to this wonderful place. But I am afraid doing that will make her self-conscious.
Instead, when I see Eve in the locker room, walking around naked, I will mentally throw up my fist and cheer, "You Go Girl!"