I think the female form is so beautiful. As a bisexual woman, I am drawn more to the female form than the male. There’s something so lovely and organic about the way it curves, the way bellies round and the way that legs are shapely and graceful. And when I look at art, from the Baroque era til now, I see the female form in the way I always have seen it – rounded, majestic, full, and gorgeous. One of my favourite paintings is Botticelli’s Venus – the way her beautiful body curves and flows with the water and the shell she stands on, I wish, in my heart of hearts, that I could look that way, too.
My actual body type has not always traditionally matched the idea I’ve had in my head of what a beautiful female form should be. I stand 5’2″, and I carry most of my weight in my stomach, abdomen, and bottom. I have short legs with thick ankles. I think I have graceful shoulders, but my neck humps forward slightly and I’m not fond of the way my stomach can sometimes form an “apron” over my pelvic area. I don’t like my arms and the fat on my triceps. I am a fat woman and I’ve had a lot of trouble trying to find my own beauty, even though I practice body positivity. It’s a struggle – because again, the ideal female form in my head doesn’t match the one I’m currently in.
There’s a spa in downtown Toronto that caters only to women. It’s called Body Blitz, and it’s a waters spa – a place where, like the ancient Romans, you can go and bathe in healing waters. It has a full “waters circuit” that you do, and at the end of it, you feel amazing. Your skin is soft from the salt water, your face glowing with health, and their delicious juice bar makes your insides feel good, too. But what I love most about it is the absolutely wonderful attitude towards body positivity.
When you go to Body Blitz, you can choose to wear a bathing suit, or you can choose to go without anything on. One of my friends and I went to the spa this past Sunday, and she chose to go without a bathing suit. I remarked that she was brave, while also secretly thinking that no one would look twice at her, except to admire her – she has a beautiful body. I also remarked that I didn’t feel like I could ever be comfortable completely exposing my fat body to a public setting like that. And watching her, descending into the water, her body flowing easily with the warmth and healing of the waters, I was jealous – not of her body, but of the ease in which she was comfortable being nude in this sort of setting when I was struggling with an ill-fitting bathing suit and my own insecurity.
But when I looked around, situated comfortably in the ripples of the salt water pool, I noticed that every female there seemed so comfortable with herself, clothed, or not. And I noticed a woman, my size or even a little bigger, covered in the most beautiful tattoos, lowering herself into the waters, her body full of the grace and the beauty that I have come to admire in the female form. The grace and beauty she exuded wasn’t due to the size or loveliness of her body – it was due to the fact that she seemed totally comfortable in herself. No one cared. No one was looking. Everyone was just there to feel good. And that was really empowering to me.
In the sauna, I took down my bathing suit, exposing my chest to the steam room. It was only my friend and I in there, and she mentioned, “You have really beautiful breasts.” I murmured a thank you, looking down at them stupidly, and realized that I agreed with her – I did like the way they looked, deep and full on my chest. I found myself chatting away with her, not caring at all who saw my breasts or what they thought of them. I even forgot that I was sitting there, speaking to my friend, who was naked, and that we were surrounded by other naked women. It just ceased to be an issue, and it made me think that maybe someday, I could take the waters naked, too.
This all sounds fairly narcissistic and maybe a bit obvious, but for me, it was mind-blowing, when we were dressed and standing on the hot street again. That I could sit there, exposing my body without worrying if there was hair where there shouldn’t be, if my thighs were too cellulite-filled and jiggly, if someone was looking at my gall bladder surgery scar. I didn’t feel self-conscious, thinking about how my belly “apron” probably looked disgusting, or that the hump of my neck was exposed because my hair was up. I didn’t think about anything but what we were talking about – her child, my nannying charges, our writing, our work. We chatted with another woman, who was also naked, and had a conversation akin to sitting in a coffee shop, over a latte. And no one cared.
In this world full of scrutiny and judging, with women looking at each other’s thighs to measure gaps, at the curve of an ass or the swell of breasts, at the numbers on the scale, this little spa on Adelaide St. is like an oasis. Young and old, fat and thin, short and tall – clothed or not – we, as women, gathered together to take the waters and talk about our lives. And it felt right – beautiful, and right.
As I showered after we had gotten out of the refreshing cold lake-water-like pool, I happened to catch a glimpse of my naked body in the reflection on the glass door. With my arms up, washing my hair, I saw, for a very split second, that ideal female form that I thought I could never exude. I saw the elegant curve of my back and the swell of my belly and I knew that the only thing stopping me from seeing that all the time was my own insecurity.
And so, bravely, I stepped out of the shower, wrapped my hair in a towel, and walked naked into the crowded shower room. Because for the first time, I believed I had the right.
I believed that somewhere inside, there was a Botticelli Venus, too.