Oh, bellies. We all have them, and yet they are such a source of body snark. We comment on the tummies of others; we poke at our own with judgmental stares. And now that we're officially in "pre-spring" and our grocery stores have become infiltrated by all those "ways to get your perfect body" tabloids and ads, it has become inevitable that we will begin "stressing over swimsuit season" once more. It seems to me that the main source of body image issues in women tends to be the stomach, but I have no idea how we got here. For one reason or another (maybe Twiggy; maybe the grunge era), we've become these extreme body policers focused on one "aspirational" vision of beauty; closed off to the simple premise that there exists attractiveness in every single body — and that the world would be one boring ass place if we all looked like a Victoria's Secret angel (not that they aren't beautiful, because duh).
For most of my life, I lived in sincere fear of my belly. If anyone ever touched it — by accident or on purpose — I would literally flinch; my brain turning into a self-loathing, raging machine. I wore only one-pieces or tankinis to the beach, but even that was a struggle. The thought of a crop top made me want to cry. The thought of a dude taking off my shirt... don't even get me started. But as I've gotten older, I've realized that these thought spirals aren't unique to fuller-figured women like myself; they're something ingrained in all women, especially in developed, First World countries — where the fitness model has become the No. 1 Desirable, and anyone else is supposed to hide in bed until their body miraculous metamorphoses into that of a gymnast.
The thing is, body hate is dangerous. To live a life in which you're constantly comparing your body to that of other people's is dangerous. It's OK to want to be happy; it's OK to prefer your body when you look a certain way. But the simple truth — and the one we don't hear nearly often enough — is that there is beauty in every form. And our bellies are part of that beauty. Whether flabby, muscular, flat or lardy, your tummy deserves some love. Here are just some reasons why:
1. Because It's Soft
Women covet softness. Most of us will spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on lotions, exfoliants and scrubs each year — trying to achieve that baby-smooth skin. But tummies are naturally on the soft side anyway. Try giving yours a rub right now; you'll see what I mean!
2. Because Jiggling Is Fun
Having me time is a must, and one of my favorite pastimes is wiggling and jiggling my tummy about (something most people can do to an extent, no matter their size). It's cathartic, strange, fun and honestly awesome. Forget twiddling your thumbs; this is much nicer.
3. Because Once You Get Over The Stigma, All That Remains Is Beauty
If you've ever seen a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, you simply cannot deny the beauty in parts of the body typically associated with "unattractiveness" in this 21st century world, be they thighs, bellies or back boobs. It becomes obvious that whether big, small or in-between, the female form is beautiful. And the belly is at the [literal] core of that beauty. It's at the center of your body — it facilitates your status as a living, breathing organism. And it can therefore only ever be a good thing.
4. Because It Can Double As An Awesome Pillow For Someone You Like
Having someone rest on your belly is a very sweet activity for both parties. You get snuggled; they get the world's best pillow. All is right with the universe.
5. Because Tummy Kisses Are The Best
There's something so intimate about being kissed on the belly. Perhaps it's because it's a part of the body that doesn't get a lot of air time; perhaps it's that you're trusting someone enough to see that part yourself. I don't know. But I love 'em.
6. Because It Gives A Home To All That Delicious Food You Eat
If you're lucky enough to have food, you should be thankful to your belly for giving it a home. Rather than curse the gods for "making that brownie go straight to your stomach," just smile at the fact that you were able to enjoy that brownie in the first place...
7. Because Everyone's Is Different
And subsequently, bellies are a source of individuality. Some tummies are flat, some over-hang, some have abs of steel, others are a perfect hourglass. But their uniqueness is always interesting, and worth taking a moment to appreciate.
8. Because It's Something To Grab Onto
Maneuvering bodies in the bedroom isn't always effortless, but it helps to have something to grab onto. For this, we have love handles, hips and (you guessed it) tummies. I guess this mainly applies to those with a bit of flabbiness to them, but hey... anyone can try.
9. Because It's An Emblem Of Your Femininity
To define "femininity" is a very difficult thing, because it means something different on a person-by-person basis. But chances are your belly represents some kind of aspect of your femininity. Perhaps your womanhood is partly defined by the working out you put into your abdomen; perhaps it is partly defined by the wobbliness of your core. Either way, it's yours.
10. Because Embracing Something Taboo Makes It All The More Sexy
Women are made to feel badly about their stomachs either consciously or subconsciously every day, and therefore the stomach has become something we live in fear of. But throwing those social norms aside is extremely liberating. Forget everything you've been taught to hate about yourself, and own that tummy.
11. Because Showing Confidence In A Body Part Most People Hide Is VERY Sexy
It's easy to be confident when it comes to features like your hair or eyes — things that don't come loaded with stigma and self-doubt. But it's far more interesting — and far sexier, if you ask me — to show confidence in all those bits you normally tuck away.
12. Because Bikinis Are Fun
Every woman should be able to feel the freedom that comes from stripping down on a beach when the weather turns warm. To feel the sun on your belly is luxurious, and one of the loveliest parts of summer. Plus, bikinis are cute. And they're pretty much as naked as we can get in public whilst still adhering to social etiquette.
13. Because It's Actually Quite A Sensitive Part Of The Body
Now, just pretend you don't have a clitoris for a second (I know, I know... it seems crazy). Did you know your tummy is actually super sensitive? If you just let it, your body is capable of giving you more pleasure than you know — tummy included. Try letting a partner lick, bite and nibble it. If you're anything like me, you won't be disappointed.
14. Because Maybe One Day A Baby Will Grow Inside It
Motherhood isn't for everyone, of course. But the mere fact that the female body is capable of producing life is a magical thing. I've known enough pregnant people to know that a tiny little human growing inside your belly is a pretty miraculous sensation.
15. Because Of The Plethora Of Bodycon Outfits You're Missing Out On
Just like women live in fear of swimsuit season, so do many of them live in fear of bodycons, bandage dresses, co-ord sets, lingerie, etc. But there's a whole world of form-fitting attire out there ready for the taking. No matter your size, why not embrace the outfits you've always wanted to wear? Worried about a visible belly outline? Fear not — you'll still look stunning.
16. Because It Makes Spooning A Million Times Better
Seriously, when the person you're lying next to wraps their arm right over your tummy, the soporific vibes come full blast. It's a feeling of total protection.
17. Because No Matter What It Looks Like, It's A Part Of You
Self-hate has essentially become taught behavior for most women, and maybe most people. But we need to take back our bodies — take back ourselves. And the only way we're ever going to do it is if we leave behind the body snark and start accepting: Start loving. Our tummies deserve our kindness — so it's time to stop the loathing.
Images: Author; Instagram; Twitter; Giphy