A couple weeks ago, I published my blog post Weird Boobs and Little Wieners, and the response was overwhelmingly agreeable, which to me meant that… 1) an incredible amount of people struggle with feeling like their most treasured physical body parts are going to be heavily scrutinized any time their clothes come flying off in a fit of passion. And 2) that an incredibly high percentage of people are sick and tired of feeling that way. I was so nervous about publishing that one for some reason, but I’m really glad I did.
That post, and the discussion that ensued, was heavily focused on that first time (or the first few times) two people are intimate with each other.
But what about those times when we chronically feel like our bodies aren’t good enough for the person we are committed to in the long-term?
I think back to my second marriage. God, she was a sexy woman. I mean, in all honesty, she was as close to physical perfection when we married as any magazine could airbrush a woman.
The problem was, she couldn’t seem to see it. In fact, she really hated just about everything her body was, and because she judged herself so harshly, I began judging myself more harshly, and it began spiraling into this weird, “don’t look at me I’m hideous, let’s only have sex with the lights off” thing.
This, of course, eventually came up in couple’s counseling as our marriage began unraveling. The advice our therapist gave us, I believe, is still some of the best advice I’ve ever heard on the topic.
She told us to go home. Turn on all the lights. And, taking turns, strip down until we were buck naked, and lay on the bed in front of the other. “I want you to lay there for at least ten minutes,” she told us. “Then, flip over and lay there ten more minutes while the other person does nothing but study you.” My wife and I both looked at each other with disgust and fear. The counselor finished with, “then switch places and do it again.”
Oh dear lordie, that was a terrifying idea. I can only guess what was going through her head. Probably a laundry list of every imperfection she felt she had and how harshly I would judge her for all of it if she actually did this thing. I don’t have to guess what was going through my head, I remember it clear as day. I don’t want her staring at my ponch! I don’t want her staring at my fat rolls! I don’t want her staring at my flaccid penis! I don’t want her noticing that my butt is flatter than an ironing board! The thoughts kept going.
And for some reason, we agreed to try it.
But we never did. Not really. What happened was, we got home, put the kids in bed, retreated to the bedroom to complete our “homework,” and argued for ten minutes about who had to go first. We settled it with a coin flip or something silly like that. She lost. Then we debated for another twenty minutes about whether we should turn off the lights and light candles or actually do it with lights blaring as we had been instructed. Then we started reeling off and apologizing to each other for every physical flaw we had that would soon disgust the other. And finally, she said, “let’s just do this.” She stripped down naked faster than an over-eager teenager on prom night and jumped onto the bed. I wasn’t watching her. She made me promise not to look until she was ready. My face was buried in my phone, ready to hit start on the timer.