“With everything the world throws at us, imagine how wonderful it would be if we women could stop struggling with negative feelings about ourselves. This book takes a big step in that direction. Every one of these authors has reminded us that we can be positive, we can face illness, injury, and the sometimes insidious signs of aging, and feel wonderful about ourselves.
And therein lies the heart of this book.”
For Keeps: Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance emerged from editor Victoria Zackheim’s belief that “our bodies and souls are woven into one beautiful and often bewildering pattern, and that life for many women would be less stressful and more fulfilling if we knew how to live in our bodies, accept our bodies, and stop viewing ourselves through an out-of-focus lens.” She writes that “It was my wish to create a book in which women of all ages could write about courage and dignity, about overcoming physical and emotional hardship, including injury and illness, depression and age, and share with you their insights hard-won through that battle we call life.”
She adds in her introduction “Too many of us go through life worrying more about taut stomachs than about healthy aging; we fret more about society’s expectations than our own personal growth. Perhaps this is because, whether we’re young girls or elderly women, we are bombarded by the media’s idea of perfection: lithe young models with perfect skin and smooth bodies too often achieved through eating disorders and fad diets, or older women maintaining that illusion through plastic surgery and Botox treatments. No matter what product a manufacturer is trying to sell, the substance of that message remains the same: Women are imperfect, and, unless we succumb to the hype, that imperfection will thwart our chances for happiness.”
In the book For Keeps you have the opportunity to meet twenty-seven women who share their stories about living through physical, emotional and spiritual challenges. There is great honesty and courage in their tales, which will at times make you laugh and in some instances might make you feel uncomfortable or touch a nerve with you.
One reviewer described the book in this way: “For Keeps is not an easy book to read. It is not about pretty women with perfect bodies who find easy acceptance in a beauty-obsessed culture. It is an impolite, impertinent, irreverent collection of essays written by twenty-seven much-published and gifted writers who are not afraid to tell the truth about the imperfect bodies they have learned to live in–and learned to love.”
Sara Nelson shares her belief in “My Mother’s Body Image, My Self” that our obsessions about the size and shape and appearance of our bodies are often taught to us by our mothers–who may have been obsessed with their own bodies. She writes “I was not angry, at least not then—I loved my mother, I wanted to be close to her, and if that meant worrying, obsessing over how we both looked, how alike we were, well, to my mind that was okay. Our weight and body obsession was what connected us.”
“Dead Bone” is written by Aimee Liu who shares how she first became an anorexic, then an “exercise zealot” for whom physical suffering was a path to perfection. She writes “The more my body hurt, the more my willpower gloated. A war was underway, my physical constitution its battleground. Health was no more my real goal than cheap tea was the object of the American Revolution.” A series of disabling injuries at least teaches her a necessary lesson. “My body finally, definitively, forced the message over my perverse will: I could no longer afford the fallacy that pain would make me better.”
Ellen Sussman shares in her essay entitled “What I Gave Up” how at the excessive encouragement of her father she went from being a “killer tennis player” to being a compulsive competitive runner to the practice of yoga–each transition accompanied by the rupture of a spinal disk. Now facing her third spinal fusion, Sussman can say, “What I hope for is this: that I can live in this body without pain; that I can use it as well as I’m able to; and that my mind can accept these changes with the grace of an athlete.”
“It’s a new experience, living in a body that feels old,” writes Joy Price in “Making Love and Joy in Seasoned Bodies.” “My body surprises me every day: What parts will and won’t work today?” She also shares fun tales about taking on a sixty-three-year-old lover when she is fifty-seven. “How joyful and thrilling it was to cascade into love and exhilarating sex at our age! We were as giddy and frisky as a couple of teenagers but with the added richness of decades of experience and self-knowledge. In fact, it was, and continues to be, the best sex I have ever experienced.”
Do you think that your views and thoughts about yourself have been affected by your mother or the media?
Who or what has most defined for you how you view beauty?
Do you still want to embrace this definition? Or do you want to create your own?
Do you find that your happiness is connected to your appearance?
What do you love about yourself?
What do you love best about your body?
Do you believe that you are beautiful? Why or why not?