Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 94: Four Reasons Camping Will Rock Your Body Image (in a good way)

Greetings!  I just got back from a week-long camping trip with Michael.  We split our vacation between Northern California and Southern Oregon, and I'm psyched to report that spending so much time in the great outdoors was great for my body image.  In some ways, camping made me feel more beautiful and proud of my body, and in other ways it simply reduced how much I cared/worried about my looks.  Either way, it felt like progress.  So here's a short list:

No mirrors in campsite bathroom: Sweet!
No soap in campsite bathroom: Bitter.
1) NO MIRRORS = LESS THINKING ABOUT APPEARANCE.  First, while mirrors and other reflective surfaces are everywhere in the city, they are difficult-to-impossible to find in the woods, even in campground potty-shacks (see photo to the right, for example). This may seem like no big change, since I've been avoiding mirrors for the past 3 months.  Yet, it was gorgeously different because I didn't have to expend any energy to avoid them.  Although banning mirrors from my everyday life has helped me keep my appearance in a healthier (i.e., less all-important) perspective, having to constantly and consciously work to avoid mirrors has the unintended side-effect of keeping my forbidden reflection in the back of my mind throughout the day.  Not so while camping.  Sweet relief.  (NOTE: I did have to resist staring at myself in my car's side-view mirror whilst road-tripping but.... with scenery like this flashing by, my face paled in comparison - pun intended.)
Coastal "Yurok Loop Trail" in Redwoods National Park
2) LESS MAKEUP = FEELING LIKE CONFIDENT NATURE BABE!  Surrounded by a rustic community of campers (and often just Michael), I felt confident enough to experiment a bit with my makeup routine, which hadn't varied at all since "Day 22" of the project. Specifically, packing limitations + nature-girl ambitions led me to cut back on products (again), which further minimized application time.  I was down to 4 products (including 30 SPF face lotion), and 2 minutes, yet I felt like a total babe.  Never had I been more proud of my makeup-without-mirrors application skills!
USUALLY: SPF lotion, Foundation, powder blush + brush,
finishing powder + brush, cream eyeshadow,
mascara + eyelash curler.
CAMPING: SPF 30 tinted moisturizer, gel cheek/lip stain,
cream eyeshadow, mascara + eyelash curler.
3) TREE-HUGGING INSPIRES SELF-HUGGING.  Camping in the woods meant spending a lot of time with trees.  Hanging out with huge trees makes me feel much smaller than usual (in a philosophical rather than skinnier sense), yet somehow more majestic.  Trees have wrinkles, gnarls, warts, rough skin, and weird smells... and I love them anyway (kind of reminds me of Michael, actually).  Trees get really old, and I love them more for it because age shows strength.  Trees get really BIG.... HUGE.... ENORMOUS, really.... and I find them more beautiful for it.  No tree is alike, yet all are magnificent.  Can we gift our bodies with the same respect and admiration?

Eve Ensler (dynamic author of The Vagina Monologues) posed this exact question when interviewed for the body-positive documentary America The Beautiful.  Here's the clip (note: my favorite quote, aside from "Love your tree!!!" comes from a wise Nigerian woman who pridefully told Eve, "my legs, oooh my legs!  My legs can wrap around a man and hold him there!" Rock. On.)

4) Finally, WATCHING MICHAEL SET UP OUR TENT WHILE WEARING NEXT-TO-NOTHING MAKES ME FEEL LIKE CLEOPATRA  Yes, I said it.  Objectifying my fiance makes me feel like a sexy all-powerful queen.
Exhibit A: Michael unloading stuff from car.
To clarify, when it comes to housework we usually share a 50/50 split (i.e., Michael cleans the kitchen, I do the laundry, etc., etc.).  When our vacations involve hotels, we share 0/0.  BUT, when we camp, Michael does closer to 70% of the "tentwork," including: setting up of tent, building of fires, tending to said fires, fiddling with food cooking on said fires, and careful "leave-no-trace" undoing of all-of-the-above.  My main responsibilities: blowing up our air mattress (using a battery-powered air pump), chopping veggies, and helping to unload and re-load stuff from the car.

Exhibit B: Chopping wood in CK undies.
This division of labor might seem both (1) unfair, and (2) completely unrelated to body image, but here's the scoop.  Feminists-though-we-both-are, Michael and I do enjoy excelling at things we are good at, even if our talents fall along highly gendered lines.  Thus, Michael takes some manly pleasure in successfully chopping wood, building fires, and growing a lot of facial hair in a hurry (the "in your undies" part was at my request).  Similarly, I take some feminine (and feminIST) pleasure in watching him do so.... not only because these are (hetero)sexy-man "manly" activities that I find attractive (and which manage to subtly re-align housework inequalities on a macro scale), but also because having somebody else take care of so many of these burdening details makes me feel cared for.   Feeling cared for (while sitting back, eating a s'more, and watching a big furry man chopping wood in his Calvins) makes me feel sexy, no matter what I look like.  Priceless, and much appreciated.  Thanks babe!

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  1. LOVE it. Totally new appreciation for being outdoors and in the wilderness regardless of who I'm with au natural! Thanks Kjerstin! =)

  2. I'm pretty sure I'm sporting a little more chest hair than your average Calvin Klein model. Maybe it'll open up a new market segment? (Note: I would have flexed my massive biceps a bit if I had known that I was going to be broadcast to the masses!)

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  4. It's one of my favorites too, these old stories are still so relevant today. Great blog post,I'll be back for more!

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