How I (want to) See Myself

Two nights ago I had a naked dream.

My naked dreams usually involve me being in underwear or topless, bottomless or fully nude at work, and it’s as though it’s not against the rules. Then suddenly the rules change and I’m trying to make coffee whilst covering my cumbersome breasts with one arm and hoping there’s a break in customers so that I can go to the bathroom and find a shirt, or hoping that my boss won’t look at the security footage later on and find out. Or I’m hiding from the kids at the school I work at, in a toilet cubicle, and trying to put on a bra in front of my boss in slow motion because if I do it really slowly she might not notice anything’s amiss, and I can stop being naked without anyone noticing my body.

This dream I had two nights ago was different.  I was walking home along the highway completely nude, with my hair flowing around me, sometimes creating a Lady Godiva effect. The sun was shining. I hit a downhill section, so instead of walking, I flew. I dived and swooped and soared through the air, loving the feeling of my body as I watched myself from outside of me.
I knew my dad was coming to visit me and might drive along beside where I was, so I thought I’d cover up for his sake not my own – I stopped in at a friend’s delightfully bohemian warehouse apartment and borrowed a sundress which I wriggled into. It was roomy and cheerful, and I could feel my naked body beneath it, still the same shape and still something I loved.

I’ve been thinking a lot about body image recently. I read a paper on feminism and identity in roller derby, and it noted how roller skating in the nineteenth century became a way for upper-class women to experience their bodies and their physicality differently.  Rather than simply being an avenue for attracting a husband and carrying children, it was something that they could actively use for physical pursuits, and through that they found empowerment.

I have been trying to view my body in this way. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It matters that I can use it in ways never known to me before; that I can do C-curves; that I can surge someone and push them out of the way using the whole of my body; that I can join in the experienced speed skate at general skate sessions after improving on my personal best by two laps. I would like to do more exercises for my core but I’m not really thinking about it as something to make me comfortable wearing a bikini – it’s to improve my skating, my stability and my strength.

I have not yet begun to reconcile this with the fact that I do a bit of burlesque, which is largely about how the body looks. That’s too big to tackle right now. I think in those terms I’m going to try to work on my flexibility and coordination so that my dancing improves. I know that if I focus on the exercising to maintain and improve the way I use my body, the fitness and the look will follow in its own time. I still do think that I would like to be slimmer and more toned, and yes, wear a bikini. But I’m thinking about that side of it less.

The image that I have aligned myself with via my derby name is that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. They are not thought of as the prettiest of creatures but they have big, strong, powerful legs that can push and push them. They are formidable. My thighs and butt are getting chunkier by the month as my derby life goes on, but I see that as a positive. I’m going to be like the king of the dinosaurs in its prime. My legs will be powerful, and people will be in awe.