While online dating, many men have asked me to send a sexy photo. I have tried to take one over and over again, but I can't. Why? Mainly because I don't like how my body looks.
It's different when I'm around friends. They know me and don't judge me based on whether I have a weird-looking stomach, scars under my arms or that I'm not a size 6. But it's hard when you're living in a city like Los Angeles where image means everything. It's difficult to let go of your insecurities and just keep dating, thinking someone will notice you out of a crowd of stunning wannabe actresses.
Growing up, I was taller and bigger boned than most of the girls, so my body looked strange next to the beautiful, petite blondes. When puberty hit, a psychiatrist give me a medication that not only messed with my mind, but did a number on my body. I gained a large amount of weight during a short amount of time. Not only was I emotionally fragile due to raging hormones, but I also had stretch marks across my stomach. The resulting anxiety I experienced continued into my college years and caused me to fall in with my ex because I thought that no one else was going to love me or want to be with me.
Certain insecurities stemmed from my marriage, too. I remember my ex often squeezing my stomach and shaking it around in a goofy manner. Sometimes he thought it would be fun to kiss me like he was sucking out my soul or put my nose in his mouth. He would play with my breasts like he was a 12-year-old discovering boobs for the first time and make weird, high-pitched noises while doing it. I wasn't a person; I was a toy to him. And it made me feel ugly.
He would make sweeping generalizations about how I looked, and most of the time they weren't complimentary. I was never beautiful; I was "sexy" in a weird nasal tone that sounded more like a child discovering that word and reveling in its sinful nature than a man amazed at his gorgeous wife. It made me cringe and not feel sexy at all. Add the fact that he used a lack of sex as a means for abuse and it was a recipe for a dysmorphic disaster. My body never got the respect it truly deserved during my marriage.
Needless to say, I was incredibly nervous when it came time to have sex for the first time after my divorce. No matter how many times he called me beautiful, I still had to take off my clothes and show all my imperfections: the scars in my armpits, the fact that I am not toned but rather soft, my not perky breasts (mainly because they're huge), my funky-looking stomach because of an internal condition and the insides of my thighs with darker skin. Every little inch of me was showing. It was frightening then, and it is still is frightening to a certain degree now.
Like many women post-divorce, I had a casual sex phase after that initial sexual encounter, and at that time I was never insecure. I was confident because I was focused more on my hormones than I was on appearance. I didn't care if they stayed; I really didn't want them to.
In dating, though, it becomes a little complex. Despite my valuing personality over attractiveness, most guys don't see it that way. Most guys want the hottest girl they can find because it proves something to them. It makes me wonder where I stand, because I stand out by being tall, loud and voluptuous -- not because I'm a great beauty.
Often, I sit around as my prettier friends het hit on and I wonder, what the hell is wrong with me? What if my ex was my last shot? Will I be alone for the rest of my life? Maybe I'm just not good enough. And yet I crave to be loved and beautiful, like every other girl in the world.
Just recently, I got out of the shower and walked by my full-length mirror. I went to wipe a little bit of makeup from under my right eye. But then I really looked at myself.
"You know what?" I thought. "You're really beautiful. Your eyes are stunning and you have a killer smile."
I then dropped the towel and looked. Not just glanced, but really saw everything. I'm not perfect, but I like what I see. I'm curvy and luscious with great legs. My hair is soft and shiny, and although I'm pale, I have beautiful, soft skin. Sure, my boobs aren't super-perky, but they're enormous! Girls would kill for boobs like mine! But above all, I am a person with a heart and a soul and so much to give to this world, and that should never be taken for granted.
My grandfather used to say that everyone has a different taste -- that's why they make 31 flavors. There is some guy out there that will love me again and I'll make his jaw drop when I walk into a room, because I am beautiful -- just a different kind of beautiful. Until then, I may not like my body all the time, but it's my vessel and I love every inch of it because it's mine.