In the last twenty years, I have grown to appreciate beauty in new ways. I have especially come to love not just the natural world with its flowers and gardens but also the human body, with all its curves and abilities. Given my history, this is no small thing.
I grew up knowing that I was fat. I was teased mercilessly at school. At home, I was taught that being overweight was a sign of moral failing and weak self-discipline. People should be skinny and look exactly like my thin parents and my thin sister. I didn’t. Clearly, that meant something was wrong with me.
I was an active kid, swimming, skating and later taking dance lessons. I was a cheerleader in high school and a canoe tripper at summer camp. When I look back at the photos I can see that while I was never tiny I was hardly overweight, either. And yet I was ashamed of my body every moment of every day.
It took years of hard work in therapy, loving friends, a gentle husband and a maturing faith to begin changing how I feel. But you should know that you were part of my healing, too.
You might not realize it, but I have noticed you in the gym locker room. I promise that I don’t stare at you, but I can’t help but see you when you are getting dressed or going to the steam room.
Some of you have gentle, round curves. Some of you are tall (much taller than me!) and some of you are petite. Among you there are legs that are well-muscled and skin that is soft and dimpled. I can see that some of you have children and some of you had surgery. All of you have creases around your eyes from laughing.
You are beautiful.
This is the reason I want to thank you. When I look at your body, I can so easily admire God’s handiwork. Looking at you has helped me to realize that I am beautiful, too. Each of us has our own shape and our own colour. We have our own posture and our own way of moving. Our scars tell important stories about who we are and how we’ve lived. Not one of us is the same as another.
I have taught my daughters that it is healthy and helpful to see other women naked, to see the variety of hips and breasts and bellies among us . I want them to know that real women have real bodies. I want them to learn early on what I have struggled for forty years to learn: God made us beautiful. Each of us. All of us.
Thank you for helping me learn such an important and wonderful truth. May we remind each other often and teach it to our daughters and granddaughters, nieces and neighbours. Even if it is only by our silent, beautiful presence in the locker room.