Saturating in Feminine Beauty

When women come together
Their bodies can reverberate
Creating a rich stew
Of yummy nourishment
And sisterhood

La Dance by Matisse (wikimedia commons)

I’m floating in a warm pool surrounded by women. Eyes are closed. Hands gently lap the water. Movements are languid, barely making ripples. One woman sits underwater, as if suspended. Above the surface, her breath rises, forming bubbles.

We look like we are hibernating, which in a way we are. This is, after all, a retreat.

It’s just us ladies, so no pressure to pull in one’s tummy to create the illusion of flatness. No need to wear oversize t-shirts to hide soft upper arms or round thighs or skinny hips. No need to walk sexy or look hot. Each of us is resting, saturating in what it feels like to fully inhabit our own skin. We are hiding nothing.

All these women, relaxed in their bodies, have their guard down. They are granting me the privilege of seeing them in all their beauty—flaws, which aren’t even flaws, really—and all.

Out in the world, the definition of a beautiful woman is restricted to such limited ideals. Anyone that doesn’t fit the bill because of tiny breasts, overflowing curves, or fill in the _____  (blank) might make the mistake of thinking she is subpar looking, ugly even.

When I go out in public my first response is to want to scrunch inward—my attempt to squeeze into the narrow images of what beauty is supposed to look like. Stomach compressed in! Skinny jeans on! Show some, but not too much, cleavage.

I try to convince myself that it’s just me I’m reducing down to size. When really, whenever I purposely conform my body into society-approved shape, I’m keeping the objectification of women going.

Here, with this group of women, made up standards of beauty don’t carry any weight. We come together to nourish and support. We gather to shed our shame and self-hatred. We are reclaiming our power, learning to love our bodies.

Even my skin feels like it can breathe more when we’re together. My body relaxes, and I open.

Growing up, looking at other women’s bodies was about comparing. Each glance was another opportunity to rate myself as more than or less than. Always, I was never enough. No one else was ever just right, either.

I didn’t know back then that gazing at a woman’s body could be an act of reverence.

One of the women floats by me on her back. Her soft belly, with its rows of stretch marks, is bare for everyone to see. Another woman stands, the tips of her graying hair create a trail behind her in the water as she heads for the ladder. Her hips, which have curves like a pear, mesmerize with their I’m-taking-my-time sway. She reminds me of Eve in the Garden. All that is missing is a snake to drape around her neck.

40 Comments on “Saturating in Feminine Beauty”

  1. BroadBlogs says:

    What a wonderful experience! So nice to be free from the chains of impossible beauty ideals.

  2. Ralph says:

    Am I allowed to read this Diahann ? I did anyway with my eyes closed 😉 Have a great weekend (in the pool !) ❤

  3. I think your retreat WAS held in the Garden of Eden. What paradise! Where were you? And of course my favorite part was the word play in the sentence, “made up standards of beauty don’t carry any weight.” This writing style was dreamy, creamy (and self-esteemy!) and I could literally feel my pulse slowing down and the relaxation spreading across my body. Thank you!

    • diahannreyes says:

      Not too far North of LA actually. I’ll take “dreamy, creamy, and self-esteem” for you, my wordsmistress friend. I’m so glad to hear the writing made me feel the slowness and opens, Stephanie. I really tried to stay in the experience and not get to heady in the writing. Thank YOU. 🙂

  4. HeartBound says:

    This was so beautifully written Diahann. What a wonderful and safe place to be. I hope you’re well.

  5. Kelli Shane says:

    Have you checked out Miss Representation? I think you should partner with them. I know they would love ALL that you have to say. 🙂

  6. KPS says:

    Another beautiful post. I thought of my sisters while reading it. When we get together – just hanging out, eating, or shopping — our time together always feels affirming and soul-loving. We breathe 🙂

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Kristine. I do feel that having women in our lives, both our real sisters and our chosen ones that we can sink into our fullness more is such a blessing. Btw- I wanted to tell you that I so enjoyed your piece about your wedding dress and the Spanx (I think your comment feature was off on that one). I love your reasons for choosing go sans Spanx. You looked joyful and beautiful and relaxed. I own a pair of Spanx and I really think that they forgot to factor breathing into the equation when they came up with design.

  7. markrenney1 says:

    Your essays often read for me like stories and this one is wonderful.

  8. SirenaTales says:

    What a luscious and lovely piece you’ve written here, Diahann, about opening, claiming, discovering, embodying, supporting, liberating. I so admire and love how you are able not only to evoke the rich physical and sensuous experiences you have, but also to elicit similar ones in us, your readers. Thank you for sharing your luminous self. xxo

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Chloe! It was a challenge not to overwrite by stating my meaning and just allowing the images to reveal. (Lucky for me my significant other is a writer too so I have a wonderful third eye to help me see what I sometimes can’t when I’m too close to the work.) I’m glad that you felt the story- that’s just wonderful to know that happened. xo

  9. Mélanie says:

    splendid post, young lady! Matisse loved and respected women… his painting is very famous, thanx for choosing it! 🙂

  10. Miranda Stone says:

    Not only does your post contain a wonderful message, Diahann, but it is beautifully written, like rich poetry. This retreat sounds amazing, such a safe place, and a rare one at that–where women can be themselves without shame or doubt. To know that retreats like this exist makes me think that maybe, just maybe, the mindset of our culture is slowly changing. Maybe women (and men) can stop being viewed as objects. I don’t know if that’s possible, but it’s comforting to know that people like you are raising awareness that on an individual level, it can certainly be done. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful words, Diahann!

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Miranda. I really do believe there is a reverberating going on everywhere where there are pockets of women gathering to create change together and those numbers are growing. I’m hopeful that whether in five years or fifty there will be a sudden swell and the world will look different.

  11. =) Nice line to end with. I love how you can feel your skin breathing in the freedom and permission (our darling theme word) you give your body to BE. ImaGine a world where no one compared. At least women among themselves. Talk about paradise.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Yes, it really would be a heaven on earth- when the body is restored to its rightful place of honor instead of relegated to object and vehicle for keeping women divided. I really hope that for us or if that is too soon then for our children or grandchildren- yours for sure since I still don’t know whether I will have any. xo

  12. This is an excellent reflection; the topic can seem trivial, but it is quite salient. Our body image can haunt us or help us throughout our lives. It shouldn’t be so important, but that is the way our society has trained us.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Daniel. I so agree- the conditioning by culture really impacts how both men and women see ourselves and each other and often in ways we don’t even realize because it has become second nature. If only we could all look at one another and see wholeness instead of brokenness or not good enough- that’s a world I’d love to live in.

  13. livelytwist says:

    This really spoke to me: “We are reclaiming our power, learning to love our bodies.”
    Even today, it’s a lot about comparing when we get together. Someone wishes they had my body, I wish I had someone else’s body, etc. So, your retreat experience is refreshing.

    If we don’t like the way our bodies look, we can do what we can to change it in a healthy manner (where possible). But if not, then let’s claim our power and celebrate our bodies. Thanks for affirming us Diahann!

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Timi. I agree w/ u- I used to think that honoring the body meant that I couldn’t take care of myself in certain ways that I used to -but then I realized that intention is everything. How we treat our bodies w/ the ultimate self care for ourselves is so important- as opposed to taking care of our bodies to objectify it. A teacher of mine used to say to us, “come to class adorned in your beauty” – and I loved getting dressed, putting on making w/ the intention of bringing out my beauty – as opposed to approaching from that other place.

  14. Faith Simone says:

    I’m smiling just thinking about being in a world full of such freedom and contentment with self.

  15. vnp1210 says:

    Lovely story and it really makes me re-examine my own views of my body image.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you. I’m glad to hear that. It really is amazing how a shift in perspective really can change what and how we allow the eye to see. Lately I’ve been practicing that out in the world too- changing my conditioned thoughts for more expansive ones when it comes to women and their bodies.

  16. Jenn Berney says:

    This is so rich. You are right: there is so much power in being naked around other women–it gives a push towards healing and self-acceptance. When I was a teenager, I went to a summer camp where the shower stalls were wide open–no hiding. I was mortified at first, but once I got used to it, it was incredibly helpful to me to see all kinds of *real* bodies.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Jenn! I love that you had that experience in camp. Our societal conditioning distorts our feelings and perspective about the female body especially disrobed. It’s a shame because our bodies really carry all this power and medicine and magic… I mean, being able to conceive and carry a baby? Super power! And that’s just one of many.

      Your story reminds me of the first time I saw an actress on TV whose forehead moved- I was startled and realized it wasn’t because her forehead moved it was because I was so unused to seeing that in HD that it seemed out of place onscreen. Really though, whose forehead doesn’t start to move at some point unless one opts for surgery or botox? And apparently I read on someone’s blog post that there is actually someone that digitally retouches the footage actresses in movies and tv shows. I bet the budget for that could feed a village or 50 of them.

  17. Diane Lansing says:

    You create a warmth in your writing that expresses your experience so beautifully! Thanks for sharing it. I feel a bit more relaxed having just read it!

  18. Interesting! I had heard that women examine each other more minutely than the men do. But perhaps that happens only if a male is around.
    btw, was the snake with Adam-Eve a male or female?

    • diahannreyes says:

      I think there is often a different vibe when it is just women together. I know for a long time I was different when there were men around. The snake, I believe, is female. Some say she was actually a woman but that she was re-written as a snake.

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