I don’t think you’re ready for these veins. Or these overflowing boobs. Or these faded, silvery stretch marks. Or these powerful thighs. Or the sheer whiteness of my hindquarters.
Um, no. I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. And I don’t care.
This year, my “woman’s size” tankini swimsuit fits me perfectly. It’s red, and it’s sturdy. It’s a solid construction with “reinforced panels” and a nice big bra built in. The straps are soft and comfortable. It’s absolutely perfect for what I want to do in it — swim, build sand castles, drink margaritas, walk, run, play, kiss my husband on our big beach towel in the middle of the day, and twerk from time to time if a great song comes on.
And guess what else? I did not purchase the $75 “3×2 swath of sheer fabric” cover-up to match or the skirt-bottom option. Nope. I decided that I’m not “covering up” this year. I’m going to let my bodacious butt cheeks hang out the back to get a little color for once in my life.
Vive la résistance!
Gee, I sure hope I don’t offend anyone with my big, beautiful body.
Back in the day, beach season really stressed me out. Each year, the annual swimsuit search and purchase, coupled with a complicated diet that required way too many organizational skills, began earnestly in early March. In order to have a “good summer,” I always needed to drop at least 45 pounds by June, and my suit had to be flattering, comfortable, and black (of course!). In actuality, I would always end up with something that looked more like a short Miami club dress instead of a swimsuit. It had to seemingly accentuate all my positive physical attributes while working to hide all the perceived negative ones. It had to perform party tricks, tell jokes, and work miracles too.
How would I ever survive the summer without weight loss and the perfect swimsuit? How would I joyously play with my kids or spontaneously jump up from my towel to run to the water if I could feel things jiggling all over the place? Picturing “my parts” displayed all over the beach for the whole world to see was the stuff of nightmares.
I also worried about how my husband would look at me. Would I be just another mom blob in a beach chair with a book and a sun hat in her boat-cover, caftan cover-up? Another mom whose kids incessantly begged for attention and active fun time with mama only to be met with, “Not now I’m reading”? How many excuses for not hanging out with them did I need to prepare for my summer arsenal?
Listen, these days, I don’t look much better. I’m healthier, and I’ve lost a little weight, but I wiggle and I jiggle, and there are fat pooches in places that just won’t budge. But I refuse to continue to hide behind other people in group pictures, and I’m not going to let a stupid swimsuit or insecurities about my body keep me from having fun. Life is simply too short for that nonsense, and I’ve wasted enough time already.
This summer, instead of another new suit, I’m trying on a new attitude. And it feels good.
Here’s some advice — take it or leave it. If it applies to you, please hear me, and if it doesn’t, just picture me fist-bumping you and commending you for your superior girl-power insight. I wasted entirely too much of my life worrying about how my body looked to other people and myself. I carried around the negative perception that my body was somehow this big offensive thing that needed to stay hidden. In addition to racking up lost years of my children’s childhoods, this negativity screwed with me mentally.
It created turbulent feelings. I was resentful and unhappy with my body most of the time, but especially at the beach. I hardly played with my kids, so I missed out on a lot of bond-building summer moments. I simply watched from my chair as my husband hoisted them into the air, laughing and splashing, while gleefully creating lasting family memories. I wasn’t engaged. They remember that their father always played with them in the water. Do you know what they remember about me? They remember that I just sat there and watched. I didn’t crouch down to build drip castles or jump up to chase them into the surf.
And that’s just plain freakin’ sad.
My feelings about swimsuits and beaches sent a strong message to my children, especially to my daughter. By hiding and making excuses because I hated my body, the message I sent was that in order for a woman to be happy and have a good time in life, her body must be perfect or damn close to it. Otherwise, she should just sit there and watch as life happens without her in the picture. If she’s not perfect, she’s a spectator. Yep, that’s the message I sent, and I own it.
So, young mothers, please don’t wait until you are in your 40s to discover that while you might feel a bit uncomfortable and “exposed” in your swimsuit on the beach, it doesn’t matter (at all!) to your kids.
I’m 48 years old, and my body in a swimsuit means nothing to them or to anyone else for that matter.
It never has, and my educated guess is that it never will.