Sunday, April 27, 2003
Comfortable in Your Skin
posted by Julie |
I have been working on an upcoming column about extra skin after weight loss, interviewing docs and surgeons and folks who have lost a lot of weight. This work, of course, makes me extra conscious of my own skin and the way it fits me now.
What pops into my head is the French idea - I don't know the expression in French, (though I'm sure my friend Judy will write to tell me what it is) -- that roughly translated means, "To be comfortable in one's skin." My mother, who spent some of her girlhood in France, uses this expression to describe the ideal state. She uses it to describe people she admires.
Being "comfortable in your skin" is an idea that doesn't translate easily. It suggests having self-confidence, knowing yourself and knowing your capabilities, your strengths. Also knowing who you are not, and what you are not. Someone who is comfortable in their skin may not be, empirically speaking, beautiful at all, but has the kind of calm confidence that makes them completely attractive. They are not easily hurt, easily thrown, easily knocked over. They are not competitive, not attention grabbing, not self-conscious.
And all that quiet confidence makes them the most noticeable person in the room. You know what I mean. It explains why some people who are not classically beautiful nevertheless have great sex appeal.
It explains why so many swooned over Frank Sinatra, and why today many are oddly attracted to Willem Dafoe. It explains why Drew Carey can do highly believable love scenes. It completely explains Snoop Dog, Conan O'Brien, Rosie O'Donnell and Janeane Garofolo.
There are pockets of the world where attractiveness is a matter of body proportions, skin tone and elasticity, age, white teeth and big disheveled hair. But everywhere else in the world, sexy is still measured in the qualities that you would want in a mate even as you grow older. So it's measured in attitude, wit, confidence, trustworthiness, knowledge, wisdom.
Being comfortable in your skin means you acknowledge your past and are comfortable with your future, whether it's pretty predictable or completely open. Whether you're perfectly healthy or critically ill.
I suspect some of this kind of confidence is innate. But I do think it can also be developed. I will tell you that merely losing weight won't give it to you. No way. That's pretty disappointing news, but better you know it now.
I can't say that I'm comfortable in my skin just yet, but it's creeping up on me. I suspect I'll be there when I'm 60 or so. I'm planning to be outrageously sexy at 60. By then I should really know what I want and don't want. By then maybe I'll stop chasing after the things that have nothing to do with who I am. I'll have cut out the distractions to focus on my real life and the things that matter most in it. Maybe I can do that by 50. I may hit it when I'm 50.
But I've had glimpses of what it must be like. Those glimpses come in those moments when I'm thinking the least about myself and what others may think of me. They come when I'm completely engaged in someone or something else. When I'm excited about a new project, focused hard on learning something, engaged in someone else's story, up on my soapbox about some passion or other. It's never about the outfit or the hair. It's never about the tan or the teeth.
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