life with an ostomy. candid, not sugar-coated. empowered, not embarrassed.

Mar. 29, 2006

Baring All

Before my abdomen was cut open, I was a fairly regular nudist. Not in random places, but at a really popular and amazing nude beach in my city. After my first surgery, which was only a resection, I lamented that there would clearly be no more of that. Who would want to be seen on the beach with a giant scar down their tummy?

You could say my perspective has changed.

Since then, I got the ostomy. I visited the beach about three months after that surgery. It was challenging, but I did get naked. For the most part, I just hung out on my blanket with my boyfriend feeling a bit awkward, but I knew it was going to take work to overcome the shame I was feeling. I built up the nerve to go swimming, which meant walking past people with my bag flip-flopping around. I kept my head down most of the time, but at one point did look up to see two men playing frisbee who kind of stopped what they were doing to get a second look. It wasn't really rude, they were just shocked I think. The whole thing made me feel a bit proud, and I went to the beach a couple more times in 2002 and then again in the summer of 2003. I couldn't have done it without supportive friends, and each time got a little easier.

In 2004, I became a nude vendor at the beach. I set up my own licensed little business at the beach and spent part of my summer days walking up and down the beach selling fruit, water and juice. I wore a little apron to keep my change in and this hid my bag, but as I got to know the regulars, they got to know me, and it just became a matter-of-fact that I had a bag. I would often take the apron off to go swimming, and while I've never been able to do this without feeling somewhat self-conscious (and don't know if I ever will), each time it does get easier and I really believe that there is value in me challenging myself to do this.

Don't get me wrong; I mean I do have other reasons to go to the beach too. It's beautiful, fun, relaxed, and a totally social atmosphere; and it's not all about being the hottest person there, in fact, the folks vying for that title kind of look like fools on the beach. I've found the beach, in many ways to be a place where people can find acceptance, for both eccentric personalities and body types.

I have many memorable and interesting stories from the beach, which I want to share on this blog, but one in particular comes to mind right now. When I was vending two summers ago, I walked past a woman sitting with her friends. She was a burn victim, and it was obviously a really bad fire. It was really comforting to see her on the beach, baring all, since every inch of her body was scarred and tight. I thought she was so brave and I admired her, and after thinking about it, I figured that if that was my reaction toward her, then maybe others might perceive me in the same way. Maybe the reason that the beach is such a place of self-acceptance is because we all get a chance to see others put their marks, scars, irregularities, or whatever on display, and it in turn tells us that we are okay.


Anonymous pete said...

man do you have guts! (Tho not as many as some...)When you're finished with your balls can you lend them to me? Apparently I'm not using them.

9:53 p.m., May 26, 2006


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