When I turned 44, I noticed that I had started to gain weight, and for the first time in my life, my stomach was no longer flat. I looked in the mirror and was devastated to see white hairs growing around my chin and neck. Even the most intimate areas of my body changed from how it looked when I was younger.
My breasts were no longer firm, my thighs were giggly with cellulite; my hair started to thin on top and the hair along my hairline had turned white. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I went to a family gathering for the holidays and one of my relatives said I have two words for you: stop eating.
I went to the gym, tried several diets—but I could never get my body to look like it did when I was in my twenties and thirties. I would lose the weight and gain it back. This affected my relationship with my significant other because I didn’t want to be intimate in a body that I loathed, hated, and was deeply ashamed of.
I would call my mother crying while telling her about the changes happening to my body. “Ma why didn’t you warn me about these changes?” My mother responded to me, “Women don’t talk about these things it’s too embarrassing—you will get over it and learn how to deal with it like the rest of us.”
I couldn’t just get over it. My changing body caused me to feel insecure and jealous of younger women. And this self-defeating attitude was destroying my relationship with my significant-other and myself. Every time we saw a beautiful waitress, an argument would ensue. I constantly accused him of gawking at other women. I realized that not only did I not want him to look at other women-- and I didn’t want him to look at or touch me either. I felt barren and unattractive.
When I looked in the mirror, I noticed the dark circles and patches on my cheeks and forehead; I counted the new tiny moles on my neck; and then I look around my eyes to see if a new wrinkle had emerged since the day before. Then I would proceed to use the tweezers to remove the hairs from my neck and chin.
Before stepping into the shower, I tried desperately not to glimpse my full nude body to avoid my thoughts about looking and feeling old, frumpy, fat, and unattractive. While cleansing my body, I lifted the lower part of my stomach; the part that once carried my children—it now partially covered my vagina—it maybe even covered my sense of femininity and beauty. Some mornings, I would squeeze these fleshy folds of skin and sob—before the warm water washed away my thoughts.
The menstrual cycle that I had looked forward to coming, when I was a pre-teen, was now leaving. She (my period) had brought many gifts with her-- my breasts, my voluptuous curves, my thick hair, my supple, smooth, and radiant skin, and my sexual energy to attract and keep satisfying intimacy in my life. Now that she was leaving—she was taking all of those things with her.
I no longer felt like a desirable, sensuous, attractive woman. I felt old and dowdy. My body didn’t look the same in my clothes. My waste had expanded. It was difficult to shop for clothes because most clothing stores for women catered to either young women or senior citizens. I had to find a way to feel desirable, beautiful, and feminine again. My negative self-talk and low self-esteem was destroying my relationship and affecting my confidence on my job.
I had to find a new way to celebrate my transition into the Fall Season of my womanhood and redefine, and reconnect with my femininity.