It was because I needed a break, some time away from my job and my everyday obligations, that we ended up in Salida, Colorado for the weekend. It was a chance to not only indulge in romantic interludes but also to relax and breathe in the fresh air and remember why I love being in the mountains so much, no matter what time of year.
The weekend getaway also gave me an opportunity to try out my new bathing suit.
After waffles and huevos rancheros on Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I gathered up our swimsuits and beach towels and headed to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs in the small town of Nathrop, just outside of Salida, nestled in the majestic Collegiate Peaks. The weather that day was perfect for early springtime in the Rockies: sunny and warm with only a handful of clouds in the sky. Although the following day we were hit by a springtime blizzard that blinded our path and rattled our nerves the entire treacherous drive home, our one day at the hot springs was perfectly perfect. And exactly what I needed.
The Mt. Princeton Resort offers multiple soaking opportunities, from man-made mineral pools of varying degrees to a natural creek that flows both hot and cool year-round. A somewhat surprising and pleasing aspect of these hot springs is the absence of sulphuric odor. No stench of rotting eggs that you often smell at bubbling mineral pools, and no trace of chlorine you encounter at regular swimming pools. The only scent in the air was pine resin and a hint of sunscreen. I could not wait to sink my tired body into the warm waters and allow the natural mix of lime, magnesia and potash to soothe and cleanse me. As I anticipated, perfectly perfect.
How disappointing, then, to discover the somber mood in the women’s locker room. Entering the changing area with a bag over my shoulder and a skip in my step, I encountered a scatter of women desperately trying to dress and undress without being noticed by each other. With an open design similar to most locker rooms, this rustic mountain dressing area had benches and mirrors lining the walls, leaving nowhere to hide unless one chose to wrench in and out of clothing in one of the cramped toilet stalls (which some did.) Because of this, every female in the room was forced to undress not only in front of one another but also in front of those imposing mirrors, which kindled feelings of self-doubt and body insecurities so thick, the negative aura hung across the room like a shroud.
No one seemed happy in that dressing room, despite being at one of the most beautiful, relaxing resorts south of Kenosha Pass.
Call me naïve, but I was not aware of how insecure women can become around other women, especially when placed in the vulnerable position of being naked together. Unfair comparisons are made: “She has a flatter tummy.” “She has bigger boobs.” “She has less cellulite on her thighs.” “She has prettier hair.” How sad. There should be more camaraderie. More forgiveness. An irrefutable bond that ties our gender together.
I won’t lie and claim that I don’t also take notice of similarities and differences between body types in such situations; it’s human nature to observe and compare. But I guess I’ve learned over time to appreciate the differences. Every body is completely unique – no two entities are alike – and I embrace that crazy, beautiful aspect of life.
So in that locker room, I removed my clothing and got naked without reserve, without fear of being judged and without placing judgment upon myself. My large breasts wiggled, my fat stomach jiggled and my flabby arms rippled as I clumsily slithered into my new bathing suit. Yes, I saw my own reflection in the mirror, and yes, I noticed the eyes of others looking my way and then averting, but I was not ashamed. I WAS NOT ASHAMED. My new bathing suit has a built-in bra feature that requires clasping in the back, and I must have looked quite a sight trying to make it all work and fit correctly without assistance. If anything was embarrassing, it was that, but I smiled at my own clumsiness and moved on. I also smiled at the other women in the room who looked my way, because nothing helps clear the air of misery better than a shared smile.
And when I exited the locker room and met up with my boyfriend, who had undoubtedly been ready for the last 10-15 minutes, I was met with a wide smile and the words, “Wow, honey, you look amazing.”
We found chairs in the shade to lay our towels upon and dipped our toes into the soaking pool. The temperature of the water that day was 105°. Rather than needing to carefully step in on tiptoes for fear of freezing, as you might at a regular swimming pool, we were able to simply wade right in. The sultry heat of the water rolled upon us, enveloped us, hugged us close like a soft blanket that immediately began to work its magic on washing our cares away. There could have been nothing better.
Moving in water is a weightless experience. For someone who carries an abundance of body fat around with her on a daily basis, feeling such weightlessness is an incredible sensation. In the soaking pool, I had the pleasure of floating effortlessly, with limbs as light as feathers and a torso that bore no weight, and I thought to myself: “This must be what skinny feels like.”
I do not long to be skinny. But I did like that feeling for a moment, to experience what another body experiences that is unlike my own. If a thin woman was given the opportunity to carry around 2-3 times her own body weight for an afternoon, would she appreciate the experience? Perhaps she’d at least gain a better understanding of the struggles we face. That is what I long for: a better understanding of the myriad of differences that we embody as individuals.
I also long for women to uplift other women and for body shame to be cleansed from our psyches. I long for deeper connections and more love and a higher purpose. Is that too much to ask for..?
I don’t care to be skinny. I don’t care to be fat. I just want to be me. EZ. Wiggles, jiggles and all. Here I am – no judgment.
“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” ~ George R.R. Martin