Fitting In

Just use this as a byline please.

Excerpted from Happy Swinging, Advice YOUR Mom Never Gave You!
- Sue Gould

I answer a lot of phone calls during the week. The most common question I am asked is, "We're not really in shape, you know, we have a couple of extra pounds, is everyone Barbie and Ken?" So many couples want to be sure they won't be the only ones who are over 21 with not so perfect bodies.

Everyone wants to fit in. From our younger years in grade school to our years in college and then after, our quest was to dress the same, act the same, and be the same. Even though in the 60's when I grew up, we were lauded for wearing funky clothes and behaving against the grain of our parents' belief system, somewhere along the journey into individualism, we ended up being the same as all the rest of our peers! Do you remember the feeling you had when you started a new school? Even if you knew some of the kids there, it was a different place and different people. Different behavior and different clothing, it took a while to figure out how to fit in. I remember going from junior high to high school with the same bunch of kids I grew up with, yet there were a lot of others there as well. Everyone in high school was wearing bigger bells (did I just date myself?) and I found myself wanting to go right out and buy some. I also remember having a fight with my mother about that very subject and her comment to me was, "Do you HAVE to be just like everyone else?" The answer to that question was yes. Do you remember that feeling? It's uncomfortable and awkward and you feel very left out and alone.

So you think now that you're all grown up you're exempt? Most of us assume that because we're adults that we have an infallible sense of who we are and we become very secure in the knowledge that we're well within our comfort zone. We spend years developing our sense of self. We dress the way we want. We act the way we want. We surround ourselves with all the trappings of comfort. We're fine with making decisions regarding our children, our homes and ourselves. So where do the doubts come from?

Consider the last time you went to the movies. The actresses are generally rail thin, with perfect hair and make-up. The actors are ruggedly handsome with perfect teeth. Consider the last time you picked up a magazine at the grocery store. The men and women featured in most magazines are beautiful. They are well-constructed models of what Hollywood would want us to emulate. Buy these products and you'll be thin. Buy this toothpaste and you'll have perfect teeth. Do you believe these premises? Do you believe that soap operas are real? Of course not! So why, then, do we believe that these few human beings represent what we should be? Although I'm considerably older than most of those women in magazines, I still compare myself to them. And I spend unqualified amounts of time lamenting that my thighs are never going to look like that! I started to wonder if this was just a girl thing, so I asked the men I knew if they ever had any of these same problems. Sure enough, although men don't talk about their insecurities openly, they do feel the same. When you are bombarded with these "perfect" images constantly, it's difficult not to compare yourself to them. The funny thing is that these body types are only considered perfect in some societies. Consider some of the body types you've seen in National Geographic. What our society considers grotesque is beautiful to another part of the world. I will never forget a conversation I had with a couple that has been married longer than we have. She and I were complaining that we would never be thin like those chicks in the magazines. Her husband was furious! He said that it made him angry to hear women who are beautiful destroy their self-confidence. It helped put things in perspective. It makes a lot of sense that if we consciously or even subconsciously continue to compare ourselves with images that are generally considered to be perfect and we do not look this way, that we would destroy our self-confidence to a degree. Of course, we can go to the gym and tone our bodies. However, our bodies can only be shaped so much. I think what we really need to reshape is our mindset!

So the first thing to think about is where does your comfort zone end? Are you comfortable with the way you look and who you are when you go to the grocery store together? How about when you go to the movies? Or when you go to dinner together, are you looking at everyone else and deciding how you fit in? Do you try to figure out how all the people at the restaurant are going to dress before you get dressed? I'll bet that the answer to these questions is no. But why? You are together in a group of people that you don't know, right? I had trouble identifying what was so very different about going to a swing club. So I started to think about the original question. Why do mature, self-confident adults suddenly question their ability to fit in? In a conversation with a dear girl friend, she told me that when she comes to the club, she knows that eventually she'll be naked. That's the difference! You can wear make-up, and stockings and clothes to hide the rolls if you have them, but once you take off your clothes, that's it. There's no place to hide. Even your partner telling you how wonderful you look doesn't make a difference to you when you're faced with a situation of being nude in a group of people you don't feel comfortable with. Of course you could enjoy the club with your clothes on. But eventually, you'll see that most of the other couples get more comfortable. And you can't go into the hot tubs with your clothes on!

How comfortable are YOU with your body? A woman called here to make a reservation for the orientation. She told me that she was fat and that she was worried about her size, compared to other women. I told her that the people who come to this club are more interested in WHO you are, not what you look like. She told me that sounded like such a line. But she trusted us enough to attend the orientation. She and her partner joined the club later because she found what I said was true. It is true most of the time. Couples involved in this lifestyle are more tolerant of differences. Our enjoyment of each couple's individuality makes this a most special place to be. But this little piece of society has its flaws as well. One of our club members came to me very upset one night. Someone had made a mindless derogatory remark about her weight. She is sensitive about the subject, because she thinks of her body as a "work in progress." She told me with tears in her eyes that they loved the club and the lifestyle because they feel so safe. With one thoughtless comment, someone shook her faith in that. I felt so badly for her because I, too, love this lifestyle for the same reason. I trust everyone to be honest and to respect my feelings as I do theirs. I want to believe that everyone that comes to this club is capable of putting aside their prejudices and preconceived notions and welcoming new friends with open arms. Of course you can't like everyone you meet. But you can at least appreciate the honesty with which everyone enters this lifestyle. This is one of the very few places that it's possible to leave your social standing at the door. Everyone is equal. It doesn't matter if you have a white-collar or a blue-collar job. It doesn't matter if you drive a brand new car or a junker. It doesn't matter if you're perfectly shaped or not. What does matter is how you behave.

So to answer the original question, no, there are very few people with perfect bodies that are swingers. But much more importantly, there are a lot of very real people who you could call your friends.

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