Opening Up Our Marriage Finally Made Me Feel Wanted (And Beautiful)

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kink and body image
Love, Self

And it feels DAMN good.

I’m standing in line at the grocery store being assaulted by the loud personal conversation the guy in front of me is having on his cell phone.

He’s been talking since I walked up and put my items on the conveyor belt.

I'm trying to focus on checking email on my phone, when in response to a question on the other end he replies, “Well, you wouldn’t turn your head to look at her but she’s nice.

I can no longer concentrate on what I’m doing at that point.

I’m overwhelmed by the idea that some woman I don’t know has no idea some guy just told not only his friend, but me, the cashier, and anyone else in earshot, that she’s no head turner.

I feel terrible for her, and I feel terrible in general — mostly because I’m not exactly a “head turner” myself.

I may be for a select few, but not in the eyes of the mainstream, and probably not in the eyes of the douchebag publicly criticizing some woman I probably would think is much prettier than me if I met her.

Thanks cell-phone douchebag. I simultaneously hate you and hate myself.

I happen to have anxiety issues based in my fear of rejection.

Basically, I worry that other people aren’t going to like me or find me attractive. Irrational, yes, but something I've found nearly impossible to overcome.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who rock their look and feels sexy at any size. Unfortunately, I haven’t really been able to do that.

I do have brief moments when I feel good about how I look, so I’ve decided to take a good hard look at why I feel so insecure.

I've realized it has much to do with the way I perceive that other people see me, combined with the filter through which I see myself.

I sometimes feel great walking around in an outfit I like, but then when I catch a glimpse in the mirror, I instantly hate what I see.

Like a hall of funhouse mirrors, the true vision I have of myself changes depending upon the angle from which I view it.

We all see things differently. We form opinions based on the unique mental palette that forms each of our opinions and tastes. The color blue is not the same shade of blue to everyone. What is beautiful to one is ugly to another, with various shades of opinion in between. So the way we look to ourselves is different than how we look to others.

This is something I’ve become acutely aware of lately.

Days where I feel I look like an awful mess, my husband thinks I look sexy. Nights I leave the house thinking I look terrible, I encounter people who sincerely compliment me.

It turns out the most critical eye in the room is my own.

I look in the mirror and see every flaw — amplified. I see every scar, every dimple, every misplaced hair, every … everything.

Interestingly, becoming non-monogamous and kinky has helped me get through my body image issues, even if not entirely past them.

When you’re in an open relationship, you’re more open to compliments, while also more open to the possibility of rejection. I know I should be able to love myself and be self-accepting, but I don’t seem to be able to fill my self-esteem bucket on my own.

The moments when I spot myself in the mirror and think I look great put a drop in that bucket. Having someone I know and love compliment me puts about a cupful in the bucket. Having someone who I just met compliment me can nearly fill it to the brim.

It probably sounds shallow and vain that an unsolicited compliment from someone make me feel so good, but it does.

In a culture that worries about compliments seeming creepy, obtrusive or sexist, we don’t get many compliments as everyday, average adults.

I rarely get unsolicited compliments in the vanilla world, especially since I’ve been married. I’m a married mother of two, usually invisible to the vanilla eye.

I’m also not just beginning on my journey to Cougar Town. My train already pulled up to the station, and the conductor is trying to pry my hands off the rail so I'll finally exit the damned train — which deems me even more invisible.

I've experienced fat-shaming over most of my life, by mean girls and rude guys growing up, and by my own mother. 

My self-esteem bucket is not only running on empty — there’s gaping hole preventing it from ever filling up sufficiently.

My mom was always slim, but my sibs and I never seemed to be thin like her. Each of us struggled with weight issues our whole lives. Mom liked to point this out every chance she got, thinking that if we were embarrassed by our weight we would do something about it.

It’s simply not that easy when you feel terrible about yourself.

Like Fat Bastard says in Austin Powers, “I eat because I’m unhappy, I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s vicious cycle.

Yeah, mom. So when I come home to visit and I’ve gained weight because grad school is mega stressful, the last I need to hear right when I get off the plane is “You’re so fat!

That’s the person I see when I look in the mirror.

Not a sexy MILF. Not a sexy anything. Certainly not someone anyone would LF, mother or not.

Thankfully I’ve been feeling better about myself lately, because there are people in my life who see me, compliment me, and appreciate me more than I appreciate myself.

I only had my husband for that for the longest time, and after a while, it wasn’t working. He sees me through one very particular filter.

Over the past few years I’ve found that polyamorous and kinky people — even vanilla sex-positive people — are more openly complimentary than most people I have encountered elsewhere in my life.

This community can find someone sexy at any size, any shape, any gender, any … anything.

I found out there are more people in addition to my husband who find me attractive, even sexy, and who are not afraid to say it.

I wish everyone could be this openly appreciative.

I’m still no head turner in a grocery store, or even at a vanilla party, no matter how dressed up I am, but my sex positive/open/kinky friends and playmates seem to like what they see.

I’m going to try and see myself the way they see me.

When it comes to attractiveness: Do you see what I see? No, you don’t.

You probably see me much more favorably than I do myself.

I need to remember that when I balk at sending a photo, fret about the outfit I’m wearing, worry I won’t look sexy in lingerie, or stress out at the idea of anyone seeing me naked.

And I especially need to remember that on those really tough days when I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would like me, much less want to be with me.

I can’t please everyone, but from what I’ve heard, I do please a few.

And that fills my bucket plenty.

Listen Now: Whether you had to find a mirror to see yours or you could just look down and not miss it, we’ve all had first encounters with our bits, you know, our genitals. In a culture that espouses a specific body ideal, we can’t escape wondering if even our most private parts hold up by comparison. Bodies are amazing because of diversity not despite it. In this episode of Life On The Swingset, co-hosts Cooper, Ginger, Dylan and Katie Mack discuss how body positivity wins the day.

This article was originally published at Life on the Swingset. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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