He slowly started to take my bra off. He had already dimmed the lights so I would feel more comfortable. Funny how men know to do that. Sad, too.
He was gentle. And sweet. Making sure I wasn’t hurting through all the tears. I’m not sure if he knew why I was crying. He never asked and I never said.
A first time is always daunting.
Almost 14 years ago, at age 18, I decided to get breast implants. I was young and rebellious, worried about the wrong things. Weren’t we all? Recently, when a group of us turned 30, a friend asked, “What would your 30-year old self tell your 20-year old self?” It was a time warp through the last decade. What had I done, where had I gone, who had I become? When you take the time to sit and think about what 10 years in your own shoes looked like, the reel of memories serves as essential self-reflection.
If I could go back in time and tell that soul-searching 20-year old what to do, I wouldn’t. She wouldn’t have listened anyways. She needed to figure it out on her own. Her knees needed scrapping and her heart needed breaking. She was embarking on a jet set of big things, change and travel and awe. She thought all the big things held the answers her wandering spirit was seeking to find.
And she was right.
The travel grounded her. The heartbreak made her strong. The friendships made her whole. The dark instilled her wisdom. In the scary she learnt trust. In the confusing, faith. The mistakes were lessons and the triumphs, conviction. Everything those years contained slowly transformed that girl into the woman I am today.
So at age 31, when my husband gently began to peel away the surgical bra that held my deflated, sagging breasts, I thought I’d be just fine.
I was not.
A flood of tears began to roll down my cheeks, and without pause, he simply helped bathe my new body.
I didn’t think the removal of my implants would affect me so strongly. And, in a few weeks, it probably won’t feel as monumental. But, when I looked into the mirror that night, for the first time in a long time, I saw my 20-year old self. She was staring back at me, reflecting the very same vulnerabilities and insecurities I thought we shed years prior. I was saddened by her appearance, weakened in her stare.
Then, a weighty realization blanketed me. I had done this to my body.
I asked it to stretch and to tear, to be cut and to heal. I didn’t love it the way it was. The scars were pink with proof. As women we so often live our lives uncomfortable in our bodies. In a constant state of not good enough we turn to exercise, diet, makeup, surgery and beauty treatments as our mask.
In a society that profits from our self-doubt, loving yourself is a rebellious act.
I let my 20-something self, give my 30-something self, advice that night. Alas, she’s my oldest friend. She whispered... rebel.
So, after 14 years of viewing my body a certain way, I chose to let go of the parts that were not me. I chose to let go of the things that no longer served me. I chose to love myself as is. And in all the seeking and searching a decade can contain, it’s sometimes the small things, quite literally, that teach you the greatest lessons.