Our physical beauty is such a small part of who we are. It's the icing on the cake. It's the baking soda in the batter. It's one card in the deck. It is part of us, but it isn't us.
Let's say you're casually chatting over coffee with a bunch of female friends when one pipes up with something like this, "Oh I only use SOY milk in my coffee. We are not meant to drink milk. And no artificial sweeteners. They give you cancer! Did you not know that." Perhaps you're at a playdate and you pull out a juice box only to see that mom pierce you with her judgey eyes and say, "We don't do juice. It's empty calories. You really could just give them a cup of sugar." You know exactly the type I speak of.
Later that night you might just find this same woman crouched in her guest bathroom inhaling an entire package of Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies, washed down with big gulp diet Pepsi, while reading Star magazine by the light of her iPhone. Hypocrite.
All of that was the long route to telling you that I strive to practice what I preach.
I said (on TV, to Rachael Ray, so there are a few million witnesses): If you want a bikini body, put a bikini on your body.
And in that vein I present you with this:
And finally this:
Me and my cleavage. Off topic, but still a good head shot.
Was it hard to put on a bikini and stand in front of a camera? No. That was, in truth pretty easy. The harder part was standing in a freezing cold pool. And also standing motionless like a cruel game of freeze tag where no one ever tags you back in.
And also, seeing myself in a bikini. That is also hard. As it turns out it's easier to preach than practice. Just ask Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. If you're too young to remember them, here is a summary. A valuable part of American Evangelical history. Wherein valuable actually means ridiculous.
Hypocrisy makes me irritable.
I'm not being hyperbolic when I say all people are beautiful. But if I may offer a clarification, by beautiful I don't mean only physically appealing. Because what the hell is beauty anyway? In the West African country Mauritania fat is valued—desirable even. So much so that they send young girls away from home to gain weight. To get fat on purpose. There are countries that value light skin and countries where you'd better not show up with red hair and freckles lest ye be banished to the wastelands.
This is real. Dichotomy abounds.
I implore you friends, pause to consider, who decides if you're beautiful. And conversely who decides if you're not.
If you said ME (and by me I of course mean YOU) then congratulations. You win the prize!
The prize is you not being deluded into thinking another person's opinion of you matters. Ever.
I asked my daughter to stand by me (in the freezing pool. Sorry yogibear.) to illustrate something very simple. She is beautiful. She is, by conventional American (and most Western countries) standards, gorgeous. Not Mauritania though, sorry. All the definitions of (Western) beauty, though, she personifies.
And also. I am beautiful. I'm not living in a house built of narcissistic bricks. I am perfectly aware that my physical body is not appealing to some people (Mauritania excluded). And I don't give a damn.
I am beautiful. I am fat and happy, and beautiful.
I'm not immune to criticism. When people call me ugly or fat or stupid I do have to take a perfunctory pause to gather my thoughts. And then my thoughts are, oh that's right, I don't give a damn. I invite you to peruse my Instagram (joniedelman) or my Twitter timeline (joniboloney) and scroll through innumerable effusive comments. All of which say nothing, save I am beautiful. It seems like I have the right group of people around me. Thanks friends.
You don't have to shimmy into a bikini and stand in a (freezing, dear god so cold) pool. I did though, because I wanted my preaching and my practicing to meet up and shake hands and maybe even give each other a big bear hug. Practice meet Preach. And welcome to our photo shoot. We gather here today to admonish women everywhere: You can wear whatever the hell you please. Yes, that includes bikinis. Even if you're *gasp* fat. That includes stretch pants, yoga pants, crop tops, tube tops, a bathrobe, a corset, skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans, high waisted jeans, no jeans. You can wear whatever you like, wherever you like (but you'd better wear something, the law frowns on public nudity). You don't need approval and you sure as hell don't need permission.
You see size 16 me next to my size 6 daughter. Once you finish reading this, whether or not either of us is "beautiful" is irrelevant. What we are after the photo is taken, after the filters are applied, after my blessed photographer (Staci Sheets. Thank you dear) has removed the bruises from my thighs and corrected the purple tone that occurred as a result of the arctic waters of her pool, what we are after all that is done—that is the heart of it. Our physical beauty is such a small part of who we are. It's the icing on the cake. It's the baking soda in the batter. It's one card in the deck. It is part of us, but it isn't us. And that applies to all of us.
You are beautiful. And you are so much more than beautiful.