Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.
I received a photo attachment in an e-mail that showed a senior couple, in their late seventies, standing on a public street. He wore a leather motorcycle jacket, jeans and a billed cap. We only saw her back, but that was more than enough. She had white curly hair, wore a faded jean jacket with a biker insignia on it, and Daisy Duke shorts that exposed her entire derriere – entire. Two vertical rows of decorative cut out designs treated us to even more of the same. It wasn’t enough that every inch of her flabby, overweight body was covered with heavy duty cellulite, but this half naked Senior Biker Chick, with bare rump, and bare legs, wore black orthotic shoes.
Careful examination revealed that this was not a touched up photo; shadows and the way bodies were postured indicated that it was, indeed, authentic.
My instant reaction was to laugh out loud, and feel a degree of revulsion. Viewing her body was not the way I’d have preferred to start my day. How dare she walk around like that in public. Didn’t she own a full length mirror? Didn’t her husband have eyes and a mouth?
I forwarded the photo to 83 of my most intimate e-mail buddies so they, too, could spend the day with that image burned in their heads. Reactions came back rapidly. “Eeeeeuuuw!” “Oh my God!” and “Please kill me if I ever become so senile that I believe I’m still a babe,” were some of the kinder responses.
I recalled seeing something similar while on a cruise. There was a group of five overweight senior women, leaning against the ship’s railing, sipping fancy pastel colored drinks, and laughing. They were French, and they each wore skimpy bikinis. None of them draped towels around their midriffs to hide flabby rolls and upper thigh cellulite. And since they weren’t accompanied by Seeing Eye Dogs I felt safe in assuming they could each see.
I shook my head and puzzled at how these women could allow themselves to be seen that way. Had they no pride? Didn’t they feel even remotely embarrassed?
On the contrary. It was obvious that these women were perfectly comfortable in their bodies, had no concern about what others might think, and no interest in concealing who they were. Their indifference and confidence were almost sexy.
I viewed them from a nearby deck chair where I reclined in a manner that prevented my thighs from resting on the chair and, thereby, spreading to their full width. I wore one of my four black, one piece, industrial strength bathing suits and had a beach towel available for immediate coverage should I decide to unbend my knees and allow my thighs to relax.
After a few moments of inappropriate staring I realized that I dearly envied these women. I tried to imagine what it might be like to be comfortable in my own skin; to live in a country that accepted midriff bulge, cellulite and upper arm wings as proud Rites of Passage into feminine maturity; as rewards for doing those heroic things that men have never been able to accomplish: bear children, retain water, and clean clumps of food from the kitchen sink drain.
I dream of a society that is able to close its mind and eyes to the ravages of age and abolish current unwritten dress codes for older and overweight women. I want my grandchildren to live in a country that embraces a woman’s right to walk without straining to hold in her stomach, to not have to cross her legs in ladylike fashion if her thighs struggle against such attempts, and to expose her naked arms without having to explain, apologize or purchase Flight Insurance.
In other words, I want the same freedom and rights as men have.
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