Bilkish Vahed

The Woman Inside

Tag: the body

Lycra & the Body

I don’t like the tautness of lycra on my skin, but for yoga class I follow the fashion, I wear lycra tights with sports bra and top. It makes sense, you don’t want pieces of clothing flapping around you as you move, that’s a distraction.

In the midst of stretching an arm and opening a hip the other day, it occurred to me that the figure-hugging outfit actually inadvertently achieved something deeper – it put me IN my body, made me feel my whole form, its contours, its individual shape, its length and breath. I had a fuller awareness of my body than being naked affords. 

Felling IN the body is priceless.

How we loose this sense as we trudge around in our day to day, modern lives. Being IN the body is feeling switched on, feeling the sensuality of the wind on your skin, the rush of just moving your limbs with awareness, being open to the knowledge that seeps into consciousness only through the body. Lycra has its uses!

Celibate in Paris

BOOK – THE ART OF SLEEPING ALONE

Imagine being at a party, people milling around drinks in hand, conversation is interesting then momentarily tedious, when someone suddenly says quietly: 

“For a long while, and I really don’t wish to say when it was or how many years it lasted, I chose to live in what was perhaps the worst insubordination of our times: I had no sex life.”  

This is Sophie Fontanel’s opening admission in her memoir The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex (2013).

It’s true that I’ve had intimate unasked for details of sexual exploits foist upon me, by a tipsy bragging man or woman at a party, but talk of no sex life? Not that, which makes Fontanel’s opening claim surprising and even shocking.

Spontaneously I flicked to the back jacket cover, and was greeted by a smiling, radiant, attractive woman, who has been an editor at French Elle for more than a decade, I read. What had prompted this decision, I wanted to know? Fontanel did not apparently find herself simply going through a dry period where no lover materialised to flame her desire; hers was, she tells us, a determination, a choice to be celibate – why? 

For a few months Fontanel’s friends tolerated her solitude and state of abstinence with curiosity. Curiosity soon gave way to harassment – had she met someone yet? Why was she not dressed properly – showing more leg, more cleavage and where in heavens name were the high heels?  They urged her, shoved her towards a man, any available man, but she was having none of it.

“I’d had it with being taken and rattled around. I’d had it with handing myself over. I’d said yes too much.”

In breezy prose and loosely connected vignettes, the narrative goes on to tell about the sexual lives of Fontanel’s friends. The guy who had been a star but who now is alone and melancholy and lives with his Monet; Henrietta who “bound herself to a man” through love, because she figured that “without anything, one has nothing”; the woman from Basel who extolls the wonderful sex that she has with her industrialist husband, though she still hankers for other men and her husband fantasises about a threesome; the neighbour who has been suffering for five years because his wife won’t let him touch her, as she finds the male body repulsive. 

Dissatisfied, compromised, sad lives – what did they tell me, if anything, about what sat at the heart of Fontanel’s story?

‘If you force yourself to make love, if your sex life isn’t as good as the one you dreamt of or expected, if you don’t feel respected, can you just stop? 

‘The answer is yes. And the fact that women can make love when and how they want is sexual liberation. But sexual liberation is also to not do it, if you don’t want to.’

Fontanel talking to the Telegraph

Could the key lie in the experience of the young girl who at thirteen looked sixteen? The precocious teenager who followed her lust into a hotel room with a handsome tourist from Mexico, twenty years her senior, a stranger who took what she had unconsciously offered, irreversibly. Did that first sexual experience shape everything that followed? 

At twenty her first serious boyfriend had his way with her. He woke her in the middle of the night but she was never grumpy. In bed, he tugged her head this way and that but she didn’t bat an eyelid. He strode around the apartment imperiously. She remained impassive and mysterious but something else lurked within.

One day her boyfriend was in bed watching a television show about dog handlers. Contrary to what the public think, a colonel explained, the dangerous dogs are not those that bark and carry on, appearing fearsome, for those dogs give someone a chance to actually plan an approach and form a relationship with them. The dog that appears placid, on the other hand, that allows you to approach, doesn’t growl, welcomes your pat, then suddenly whips around to tear off your cheek because you have unknowingly touched her on “some nondescript place” – that’s the tricky dog. A picture of a female Dalmatian appeared on the screen. Fontanel chillingly realised – she was that tricky Dalmatian.

Ours is a culture where to admit to having no sex life is to open oneself to ridicule. Someone who is not doing it  – frequency is crucial – can feel like a pariah condemned to silence. Fontanel’s slim volume goes a way to lifting the veil of silence, but more needs to be written with sensitivity and intelligence about the unravelling complexities of desire.

The Double Bind of High Heels

If every day, I could slip my feet into beautifully made shoes with elegant 6cm heels, I would. I’d walk in them through the mall, to work, to café’s, on the sidewalks. Everywhere.

But I don’t. Because I can’t. Because I can only tolerate them for an evening out, or a day here or there. Anything more, makes me ache and hurt. Sleek they make me feel, but sore.

How I lust after the day that some genius gets it right and designs a chic and sharp high heel – beautifully balanced and structured – that I buy a dozen pairs for every day, and more!

That Dreadful Contraption

Le soutien-gorge, the French call it, literally “throat support,” – “bra” in common parlance. Support is what it purports to give, but “upper-body-clamp” is more apt.

Some days, the straps dig into my shoulders sending pain streaming up my neck. Other days my empire line feels braced in a wide elasticated band that shifts up and down, unable to settle. I tell myself it’s about finding the right shape, design, model … but in truth they all suck. 

I wear one every day though I resent it. I resent it, but resentment pails next to the angry-irritation I feel at being unable to just give it up, throw them all away and be done. Too strong the brain-washing of the years, the socialization that has me in its grip.

We women have worn girdles, and corsets. Bras and shapewear like Spanx. Uncomfortable, constraining, constricting, cinching… need I say more?

Yoga is Sexy

Yoga is sexy, that’s it – period.

There I was last evening, after months and months of doing nothing – finally back on my mat. I couldn’t believe it – it’s so easy to forget – the deliciousness of streeetching my side body, reeeeaching my arm outward, opening my heart to the heavens, standing strong and long becoming a mighty warrior – sooo coooool.

Sexy is the feeling in the body of being switched on. The zzzzz coursing under the skin. Sensual awareness flickering. Silky energy quietly purring. The stuff that modern, urban-jungle lifestyle, working in an office all day dims, even occasionally insidiously shuts down.

Something about flowing through poses, can sometimes, not every time, but often enough, connect all the synapses of the body with the interior self, making me brrr with aliveness.

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