Every summer, I hear the same old predictable excuses, explanations, and complaints. While the sun rays dance in the blue chlorinated waters of the pool, kids around us cannonball and pretend to be mermaids. Meanwhile, the moms sit on lounge chairs and talk about why they won’t be getting in the pool. The kids quiet down a bit, noticing the seriousness of the tones and the pained looks on their mothers’ faces.
My underarms are too jiggly.
My breasts are too saggy.
My thighs have cellulite.
I don’t want to get my hair wet.
I don’t like my tummy bulge.
I’m too pasty and too wrinkly.
I ate too many carbs this morning.
My calves aren’t toned.
The moms commiserate, each attempting to one-up the others with a list of the many things she hates about her body, many of the reasons stemming from having and nursing the babies that are swimming nearby.
I’m not sitting with them. I’m waist-deep in water, my toddler on my hip.
I know what you’re thinking. This writer, she probably has a great body. I bet she does cross-fit and yoga and runs marathons. She probably wears a size extra-small, rocks a two-piece swimsuit like an Athleta model, and sips kale smoothies.
Let me tell you about my body. I have cellulite on my upper legs (thank you, genetics), front and back. I do wear a two-piece, the bottom piece a size large to fit over my rounded butt. I have bluish-purple scars and reddish scabs all over my lower back and stomach from my insulin pump insertion sites. Clipped to my top is my insulin pump (it resembles a pager), its tubing snaking down my side to the port inserted into my lower back. Attached to my stomach is a plastic transmitter, about the size of a thumb drive, surrounded by white medical adhesive. Within twenty feet of me, at all times, lies the receiver, a device that tells me what my blood sugar is.
Here’s the deal. All these medical devices, they keep me alive. And all the scabs and scars? They are reminders of past victories and battles; their rainbow of colors will eventually fade, only to be replaced by more. My skin is always dotted, marked by my disease.
I’m not the hottest girl at the pool. In fact, I’m usually a disheveled mess. Like most moms, I’m tired and stressed much of the time. I arrive sporting a Flintstone-style, crooked ponytail, a $30 swimsuit I snagged on clearance last summer, and three oversized bags spilling over with all the crap kids require to play at the pool for one hour.
But I know what I’m doing when I shimmy off my oversized t-shirt, remove my sandals, and ease myself into the pool. I’m teaching my children that having fun isn’t reliant on physical perfection. I’m teaching my children that beauty presents itself in many ways. I’m teaching my children that the evidence of my disease will not prevent me from living life, enjoying the gifts of heat and water and sunshine that summer gives us. I refuse to insult my body, the body that works so hard every day to live, just because it doesn’t look like the celebrity women featured in the latest “hottest beach bodies” magazine.
By refusing to tell myself I’m not pretty, toned, or worthy enough to be in the pool, I’m teaching my children that their value, their ability to enjoy themselves, their strength, their beauty, none of these things comes from how they look in a swimsuit.
I’d love to not have type 1 diabetes anymore. It’s a fantasy of mine to chuck my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, along with vials of insulin, syringes, and test strips, into the depths of the Grand Canyon while pumping a victorious fist and simultaneously shoving an entire funnel cake into my mouth. But the reality is, for now, this is the body I have: strong and sprinkled with imperfections.
Every woman, no matter how perfect she appears, has insecurities. But I’m going to grasp hold of my power, of my convictions. I refuse to let my insecurities press upon the minds of my children and teach them that, in twenty years, they should sit on the sidelines while life happens.
I’m getting in the pool. This summer. Next summer. And hopefully for dozens of summers to come. I’m going to splash, laugh, observe, bask, and cheer.
Won’t you join me?