It was our second to last day in Tulum Mexico. I was there with Wanda and her best friend Regina, the three of us there for Wanda’s 50th Birthday Mexico Celebration. During my time there Wanda’s family and a small gaggle of other friends had made their way back to the states during the week. We were the last ones standing. We decided to spend the day at small Eco-Chic resort. Wanda had called ahead to reserve our plushy blue, beach lounge chairs, which we all immediately plopped ourselves into, adorned with hats and sunglasses. Practically in unison we all reached into our beach bags and opened up a book.
We spent a lovely afternoon sipping drinks, eating wonderful fresh food, reading & occasionally dipping into the ocean to cool off. We had all popped our heads up from our books at the same time to chit chat when Wanda flagged down one of the gentlemen who worked there, “ Excuse me, can we be topless on this beach?”
He must have said yes, because two seconds later, Wanda’s bikini top was draped over her lounge chair.
I was agaast. Wanda, You’re Nakie!! IN PUBLIC.
It must have been the cue every other woman at the resort was waiting for, because within 10 minutes I was the only woman with a bikini top ON. It took me a good hour to work up the courage. So many thoughts going through my head.. Body shame...embarrassment... exposing sensitive skin to sun exposure (Ok that one’s valid).
I looked at all the women around me, they were so comfortable. Just, like, fine. I didn’t get it. YOUR BOOBS ARE OUT. Free Range Tatas. How are they doing that? How can I get that? I want that. I regrouped, I applied A LOT of sunscreen, unhooked my top and put it in my beach bag.
Huh, it’s not bad.
15 minutes later the three of us are naked as the day we were born in the ocean.
As I bobbed in the waves the strong mexican sun bleached everything I was seeing. The sounds of Wanda and Regina talking went back and forth from real words to Charlie Brown sounds as my head came in and out of the ocean. The water was that temperature that takes a moment or two to get adjusted to, but as soon as you come out, suddenly the air is colder and you dip yourself back in up to your neck to get warm again.
As I bobbed a thought came into my head that shook me. My body is mine.
At 36 this was the first time I can remember having this thought, that I owned my own body. There was nothing sexual, there were no expectations, no actions to be taken. Just me, floating on the waves. I cried, at first from joy, then from the knowledge that this was fleeting.
I try to keep my body at an acceptable scale, I rip unwanted hair out by the root, I adorn my body with lovely things, but I have separated myself from it. It was not something to be cherished or something I had control over otherwise.
I have asked many times for my body to be touched in a way that makes me feel loved. I want to be able to come home from work and change out of sweaty yoga clothes without being groped. I want to take a shower without feeling like I’m sneaking into the bathroom with Mission Impossible music playing in the background. I want to just be held. Nothing more. What I was met with was the same phrase I was given time and time again, “Would you rather I never touched you?”
I want to be touched. I want that connection with another person. To be given an all or nothing... either your body will be on my terms or not at all… I chose the former. I say “I chose” because I did. Instead of sticking up for myself, having the conversation that would drive a wedge between us for a few weeks at best, I let myself be the lesser. Then it became the norm.
Cries from here were eventually heard like fussy child tugging on thier Mother’s shirt in a long Target line, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…..” They were just tuned out by the one person they’re meant for but everyone else around hears loud and clear. Over time, I stopped crying out. I took on that my feelings didn’t count. I took on that it didn’t matter how I was being touched, just that I was being touched. The fact that I wanted to curl up and protect myself was irrelevant.
A wave came over my head and through awkward snorts and bit of flailing I come back to where I am. Nude, in the ocean, safe with friends. I regrouped for the second time that afternoon and come back to what is happening now. Just me and the ocean, nothing in between us. Not a whole lot being asked of the other.
The rest of that day was spent much in the same way, books, chit chat, drink, eat, swim. It's the most perfect day I have ever had. Once the sun started making its final descent we made our way home and decided to stay in & eat left overs. With a full belly and mind I went to my room and crawled into bed. I stayed up most of the night, the weight of my thoughts bearing down on me.
I want to own my body all the time. Not a lease, not a tropical time share. Just mine. How can I make this happen? How have I let this happen? I let out a sigh and the sound mixes with the sound of the waves outside my room. I flop over on my bed and grab my phone. The screen comes on, the brightness momentarily burning my eyes and I start typing in a distraction. Are You Being Served reruns play until I fall asleep.
I wake up the next morning lying on the diagonal, starfished out, taking up all the space I possibly can on the bed. In 24 hours I will be heading home. I with a bit a nervous nusia I realize I will have to take the stand for myself that I have been avoiding for so long. I let the feeling sit for a while.
Eventually one of the long white curtains surrounding the room blows up as an ocean breeze moves through. I sigh and smile, I know there’s big things coming but right now it’s just sunlight, waves, bedsheets & the shift inside my body.