Soapy suds ran down my naked body in the shower. I closed my eyes in an attempt at one minute of peace in my whirlwind life as a working mom with two babies.
No such luck.
“Honey,” my husband yelled as he swung open the bathroom door holding Marjorie. “Did you know the stovetop is loose?”
“Yes. Yes. I know it is. I will call the contractor.”
Jordan walked out and Manning entered a few minutes later showing me a truck I have seen (and picked up) a thousand times.
Sigh. So much for a few minutes alone.
I turned the shower off, opened the door, grabbed the towel and stepped out of the shower. Jordan and Marjorie reappeared this time trailed by our two dogs.
I stood before my husband naked as he went on telling me about his day, weekend plans and other non-important news. My thoughts had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my desire to have a solid five minutes alone.
As I began to dress (my husband still talking and Marjorie reaching for me), I had to laugh. This would not be the scenario five years ago. Jordan was not allowed in the bathroom. He was not allowed to see my body ‘unprepared.’
What if I had a food baby? What if he saw my rolls? What if? What if? What if?
The best advice I ever received in regards to Jordan viewing my body was from my former therapist, Christy. In January 2010, I received a pass from treatment in order to spend the day with Jordan. We made plans for lunch and walking around, but there was also the looming possibility of going back to his hotel room.
The thought of Jordan, my husband, and partner for over eight years, seeing and touching my body sent me into a panic attack. In my mind, my body had changed so much in my few short weeks at the Carolina House. Refeeding and nourishing my body after years of abuse led to bloating and mythical weight gain in my mind.
Tears grew in my eyes as I explained this fear to Christy. As always, she listened, validated my feelings and went on to challenge me with an exercise:
“When he places a hand on your hip or side, ask Jordan ‘What do you feel?’”
I laughed as she said this. What an insane question to ask my own husband. Seriously, I thought, he already has a wife in treatment I don’t need to act any crazier. There was still so much shame about being in treatment, taking it a step farther to complete vulnerability was overwhelming and terrifying.
But I had trusted Christy from Day One and I wasn’t going to stop then.
Jordan and I ran out of things to do and he wanted to watch golf so we opted to go relax at the hotel. My heart raced as he opened the door to his room. I didn’t want him touching me. I didn’t want him seeing me.
We laid together on the big king bed, curled up like two spoons. We watched the golf tournament and chatted about life. Then his dreaded hand moved from a neutral position onto my hip, my side, my most hated body part. I froze in sheer terror then forced myself to ask the strangest question on earth:
“What do you feel?”
Jordan gave me a similar look that I gave Christy.
“What?” He asked.
“I mean, do you, like, feel something? What do you feel when you, um, put your hand there?”
“Um, I feel your hip.”
Christy’s challenge suddenly made sense. My fear and unwarranted anxiety about my body vanished once I spoke out my shame. Jordan was right. He felt my hip. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a hip.
He did not feel a muffin top, fat or any other name I called it. Jordan was not looking at my body through the same cruel eyes I was. He viewed my body with his own loving eyes. Jordan adored every inch, every line, and every curve, but most of all he adored the woman within.
Five years, two babies and countless hours of breastfeeding and pumping later, my body has been through the wringer. Some things hang a bit lower and a large scar serves as a constant reminder of my daughter’s difficult birth. But through it all, Jordan continues to view my body through those same loving eyes. And my eyes finally see what he has seen all along.
Today, spooning sessions and shower scenes are anything but anxiety provoking. They are also anything but sexy thanks to two small children and two four-legged children. I no longer flinch when the shower door swings open and I no longer hide my body when changing. No body is perfect and nobody is perfect.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to look and be perfect. We convince ourselves that our partners see what we see in the mirror. We all need a mirror (and hip) check from time to time. Speak your shame, share your fear. You might be surprised by your partner’s response. My guess is they view your body with love and see nothing but beauty inside and out.
About the Author
McCall Dempsey, the founder of Southern Smash, is an eating disorder survivor and passionate recovery advocate. After a 15-year battle, McCall sought treatment at the Carolina House in December 2010. Since then she has made eating disorder awareness and prevention her life’s work and passion.
McCall travels the country, sharing her story of hope and healing with audiences everywhere. From high school auditoriums to treatment centers to corporate meetings, her message of authenticity and embracing your inner-uniqueness transcends all ages.
McCall also writes the popular blog, Loving Imperfection. Her writing has been featured in various national print and online publications, including Women’s Health Online. She has also appeared on HuffPostLive.com multiple times.
McCall resides in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia, with her husband, Jordan, and is the proud mother of two precious children, Manning (4) and Marjorie (19-months).