Hello friends, Greetings from Austria, where I am sailing down the Danube River on my “cruise with Cheryl Strayed” excursion. It has been tremendous fun, though I almost didn’t make it because COVID finally took me down earlier this month. I’m feeling much better now, though it was rough for several days. I was in Greece when the illness hit, so my stay there extended a week beyond what I’d planned. As I lay in my sick bed in Corfu—which sounds more romantic than it was—I thought a lot about how very grateful I’d be once I was well again, how very much I won’t take my good health for granted.
Divorced after 31 years of marriage, i fell in with a man whose wife died after they were together almost 40 years. Neither of us had kissed another human besides our spouses since the 80s. The first time he reached his hand under my shirt and felt my tummy flab, I said something self-deprecating. “Nothing I haven’t felt before,” he said. We have gone on to wring more pleasure out of our saggy, aging, scarred bodies than either of us could have ever imagined. He tells me I’m voluptuous — and, twenty pounds heavier than my tall skinny man — I believe him. We are incredibly lucky. And I wish the same for you!
Trim, fit, 65….in my Pilates gear and vertical, the world is my oyster. Lean forward 40 degrees however and my skin looks like a fiercely windswept sub Saharan desert. At an 80 degree angle….planks and what was once a satisfying position between the sheets…I find my once sunny disposition tanks into dark nihilism. Your words are the reality check we all need. Thank you and to those who have written expressing their gratitude and solidarity. I bow to you all, at a 30 degree angle.
Naked and smiling, is one male friend’s only requirement for a lover. 💙💙🏼🏼
I noticed something unexpected/hopeful in rereading this letter. This line: "The fact that we don’t know is feminism’s one true failure. We claimed the agency, we granted ourselves the authority, we gathered the accolades, but we never stopped worrying about how our asses looked in our jeans." You wrote it originally before the younger generation came up and started demanding some long needed shifts. I'm an older Millennial and am Loving how much younger generations have pushed away from the "you must be thin to be beautiful/sexy" narrative us older folks grew up with, wearing their crop tops, wearing whatever the hell they want, blasting Lizzo. It's obviously not yet a full societal shift, but so notably better than it was when I was their ages. Something to celebrate! (I'll celebrate anything possible these days!)
I love this letter so much. As a woman nearing sixty I definitely feel the pressure to do everything possible to stave off the inevitable pull of gravity and a life well lived. I’m trying with all my might to look at myself with soft eyes and no succumb to the pressure of the culture and beauty industry. It’s very difficult but I just took up ball room dancing, trying to teach an old dog some new tricks. Thank you for your tender words.
The one place we can’t leave. And hopefully sometime one day we feel ourselves at home in our bodies and in the world. Your words help get us there. Thank you and here’s to your returning good health. Three cheers and more. ♥️ Much love.
I too love this letter and your response. I'd also like to agree that 1) there are plenty of men who wrestle with our own body image issues, and 2). at least some of us empathize with and can relate to partners who are working through this. I love your advice to be up front and risk opening up about the fears. I do believe this can lead to a wonderful emotionally honest connection between us. I hope Wanting found what she so clearly deserves.
This is just so perfect. I laughed out loud at "Just about to do me" as our lover's name and adored "naked and smiling" as a requirement. We wish you so much love and luck, Wanting!
Before I started dating after a 25 year relationship that lasted through all my "hot" years, I spent a fair bit of time enjoying moving my body--dance, yoga, hiking--which helped me get more confidence and pleasure in going to bed with a new man. I battle increasing stiffness and body aches in addition to expanding waistline so I try to maintain my flexibility and strength at minimum as the passage of time is slowing in my mobility. I decided that now is as good as its going to get for my body and in 10years I will look at my 48 y.o body with rose colored glasses. I don't want to miss out on this time that I have now.
Wow, I'm taking "naked and smiling" with me, that's beautiful.
Cheryl! I loved that piece in OUTSIDE magazine celebrating your WILD hike.
How young and hell-bent and glorious and powerful you were! And how SPECTACULAR you are now!!
And, P.S. I love this Substack!!!!
As always you are right on.......thank you for your words....always with understanding and humor.
Bless your brilliance and always perfect timing! I needed that!
YAY! For more Sugar and THIS!
Bravo - so beautifully written and so needed for all women - thank you!!
So glad you are feeling better. Covid finally got me at the start of July, too. I cannot wait for the tv adaptation and how wonderful about the dear sugar new endeavor. You're awesome! So inspiring! Thank you, Cheryl. Feel better!!