Now I’m no Houdini, but I’d like you to know that I’m able to perform a little magic. Just watch as I transform myself from a pale, flabby slab of middle-aged hausfrau to a voluptuous sex-bomb with legs a mile long and milky white skin to die for. My figure will miraculously metamorphose (with no smoke or mirrors) from fat to fabulous, from extra-large to extra luscious. Men will whistle, call me beautiful, grin at me with a glint in their eyes. I will literally be able to stop traffic with just a smile.

How I Went from Fat to Fabulous in 4 HoursAnd how will I perform this bit of witchery? Well, it’s simple really. I just have to transport myself several thousand clicks due south of here to a little slice of paradise called Jamaica. In just four hours, I’ll walk off the airplane into Sangster International and POOF…I will instantaneously be sex on a stick. The Canadian Marilyn Monroe. No lie.

Hard to believe, I know. Here, I’m dissed and dismissed by Canadian men as a woman of a certain age. I don’t fit the anemic Western ideal of beauty, top-heavy as it is with massive tatas and undercarriages the size of your average twelve-year-old boy. Here, the idea of men doing a double-take as I walk by is laughable. In Jamaica, it’s a regular occurrence. And you wonder why I love being there?

Frankly, this transformation from blah to bodacious was wholly unexpected. The first time I went to Jamaica, I was already accustomed to the idea that being pale and built on the larger side would guarantee my invisibility to the opposite sex. In fact, the first time I had a man smile at me with wolf eyes, I wondered if he was legally blind. I kept expecting a film crew to show up and tell me I was being punked. Then my Jamaican friends and I went to Negril for the day, and stopped at a roadside bar for a drink.

As with most bars in Jamaica, there were posters of half-naked women plastered everywhere. The wonderful part? They looked like ME. Not one of them was tiny. Not one of them looked she had even a remote desire to be tiny. They were all curvy, voluptuous, drop-dead gorgeous women who didn’t look like they spent one moment worrying if their butts were too big. And there were definitely a lot of butts on display.

I told my Jamaican friends that those women would be considered fat back home. At first they laughed. When they realized I wasn’t joking, they were dumbfounded. They asked what models back home looked like. When I described the typical size zero to them, they couldn’t understand. They found it creepy that any man would want a woman without curves. As for me, I’d spent so many years being bombarded with images of super-skinny models and actresses that the fact was, to me, the Jamaican models looked like the odd ones.

I know what you’re thinking. This is all pretty damned convenient for an (ahem) larger female such as myself. How nice would it be to just forget the whole struggle to lose weight and declare myself perfect just as I am and damn the consequences?

I’ll admit, it is horribly tempting. However, I do have a brain, and that brain is more concerned with health than how I’m perceived by the opposite sex. Just as I’m not going to starve myself to become more desirable to Canadian men, I’m not going to ignore my health to look sexy to Jamaican ones. Still, it was refreshing to see another interpretation of beauty: one that wasn’t focused solely on being thin.

Funny how that reality shift allowed me to just relax for the rest of my trip, and to feel beautiful in my bathing suit. Even though I’m not so naïve to think that I’m the bomb dot com at the tender age of 46, I realized I had spent too long—the last 15 years, to be exact—beating myself up for not looking like I did when I was fifteen. It was time to accept that this is what I am: a grown woman who has laughed and smiled and cried and weathered all sorts of storms (literal and figurative) with the attendant sagging and stretch marks and wrinkles and scars to prove it.

While I do need to lose some weight to stay fit, there is relief in knowing that there is somewhere I can go and feel beautiful, just as I am. In Jamaica, I feel powerful, confident and sexy. In Canada, I feel largely ignored. Here, where I live, I want to see acceptance for diversity in our concept of beauty. I want to be noticed by men, not just by those flogging wrinkle creams and Depends. I want us all to realize that women do not have to look like Victoria’s Secret models to be worth valuing. Most of all, though, I want to remember to value myself just as I am, even when I’m not in Jamaica. That would be the best trick of all.

About the author

Jo Holness

Jo Holness is a 48-year-old writer based in Winnipeg who has spent a lifetime playing with words. A regular opinion piece writer for CBC.ca, she also blogs at "Rick Mercer Is My Idol". Her favourite pastime?Ranting about injustice, impolite behaviour and the push towards acceptance of mental illness as just that: an illness. Jo is currently working on her first novel, set in Jamaica.

  • Cindy F

    Great article!

  • kathy downey

    Interesting post,thanks!

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