I’m not Beyonce or Kim Kardashian, but I’ve got booty. And I’m resolutely proud of it, actually. Prouder now than I was ten or even five years ago. It’s a symbol of strength, capacity and my relative wealth. Still, I’ve scorned and joked my way through endless Instagram posts.
“Do you even lift?”
“Squats all day.”
“Every day is leg day.”
I never considered myself to be body-obsessed, let alone butt-obsessed. Body conscious, for sure. Who isn’t? I’ve written about those issues some. Then I was talking with my friend Jessie – the talented, intelligent and compassionate @bloore). In talking about self-image and the age of selfies, she told me about removing almost every mirror from her house so she could learn not to look at herself.
Jessie’s captivating thought, while not the central idea of my post is worthy of a summary. Our obsession with mirrors and now, selfies, causes us to form our identity or self-image from an external observation. We observe ourselves and pass judgement or scrutinize our flaws. (At the same time, I think it gives us carte blanche opportunity to indulge our vanities too – TM.)
So I tried it for a few days. I paid attention to how I used the mirror. To be honest, I think I did ok. Not that many selfies, a tiny mirror in the bathroom doesn’t allow much scrutiny and there’s no full length mirror in my bedroom either. That might explain a few things. But I was totally mistaken.
I realised what was happening while I was walking to work. Past a run of glass windows, I caught myself studying my reflection. I’m a secret glancer, but not too secret. I caught myself almost every day. Not just mornings, but on the way to meetings and leaving at the end of the day.
So I paid attention to the pattern my eyes travelled. Butt, hips, knees, hair, sometimes the shadow of my chin, and then my butt. Lingering on the butt, particularly if walking uphill. In the work kitchen, the mirrored splashback means I pay attention to my hair and eyes, same as in the rear-vision mirror of my car. But anywhere else, I was a butt-watcher.
Day after day, I caught myself in the same patterns. So I started to think even more about what I was paying attention to and what I was looking for. Then I realised it was beauty, normalised beauty. My stomach is strong but soft. My arms have definition and curves. My legs are powerhouses. I’m short and curvy and strong, but all of that is acceptable in the curvaceous globes of those gluteous maximus and their supporting muscalature. In those moments, I belong to the beautiful crowd – we are alike. Those rounded curves are just as well formed as some of the best I’ve seen, hidden in clothes.
That beauty is more than just a physical sense of appreciation. It’s deeper. We have to become reconnected to our bodies and integrated with what they tell us. My butt is a staunch reflection of my character and personality. Gregarious, generous but in proportion, equal parts soft and strong, with strength that can’t be seen but only felt or experienced. My butt is one part of my body that really feels like me, if my heart and soul was flesh and blood. And my ass doesn’t make apologies, or demand them from me. It just opens doors with a kick of my hip or sashays down the pavement when taken by the mood.
I’m in two minds about the the endless parade of booty songs on the radio – they are not the kind of empowering I was looking for. But they rightly give women the opportunity to reclaim their bodies. I just want to reclaim mine for more than sex, whilst still being sexy.
I don’t wear yoga pants outside of the gym. I do wear tight jeans. My ass is not #belfie-perfect but I do squat and lunge and lift and climb steps taller than my calves. My ass is not a sex-symbol, it’s a powerhouse of confidence. That’s no brave feminist voice, either. I literally can carry 15 – 20kgs of toddler on each hip, supported by that butt. It powers me up stairs faster than my long-legged colleagues and it cushions every hard and cold surface I have to sit myself on. Am I a proud butt-watcher? Well, I don’t know. I’m not watching anyone else’s. I just see what my own is accomplishing and feel somehow stronger. I appreciate how I fill out my own jeans. I’m not likely to post a #belfie anytime soon – but I have a butt worth admiring on it’s own merits.
What is this vanity – this self-obsession with my physical being that can produce such torment and such joy, such satisfaction and a sense of pride? Can I weather it, just accept it and let it be – that the one thing I might catch myself watching is the one thing that gives me confidence instead of robbing it?
There are other parts of my physical self I might add to the watching list then; my cooking callouses, my calf definiton, the scalloping abdominals under their soft stomach blanket. The skin that carries my stories in tattoo, the eyes that are equal parts my mother and father. There are many parts of my body I would reclaim and let them be pride-stirring, strength-giving reminders that I am in fact, not my body. But my essence is reflected in it.