My boobs are full, I have a C-section scar, and frankly, I haven’t seen my abs since 2002. I have stretch marks on my thighs, my waist, and under my arms (seriously, what is that about?). My thighs are like tree trunks, and do not even get me started on the size of my derriere.
I carry 20 extra pounds on my frame, and I’m still hoping to one day lose the baby weight. Yes, I know my kids are 10 and 12. Shut up, a girl can dream, okay?
No amount of airbrushing, spray tanning, or body painting could recreate the appearance of the washboard abs I had when I was 20.
On a regular day, my bras have enough underwire to keep a steel mill in business and my underwear rivals the corsets of the 1800s. Words like “lacy” and “sexy” have been replaced with “sturdy” and “supportive.” Jeans with zippers make me twitch, and I’ve all but given up on ever fitting into anything I wore B.C. (Before Children).
And yet, I still wear a bikini.
The summer after my son was born, I partook in the usual “Shop for the Perfect Mom-Body Bathing Suit” routine. I searched the planet for a black suit that had padding, adequate coverage, and support for The Girls, all while making me look 30 pounds lighter. And it had to have ruching. I didn’t even know what ruching is, but I knew I needed it to conceal all evidence that I’d had a child and that my body was no longer “perfect.”
The perfect suit had to have a skirt on the bottom and a tank top. The skirt needed to be long enough to cover the fact that bikini waxing was not as frequent as I’d like, and it needed to have two boob-sized mattresses sewn in to disguise my ever-erect breastfeeding nipples.
By the time I found a suit fitting this description, I looked like a 90-year-old Amish grandmother.
And, as much as I love the Amish and their sturdy furniture, I am no longer willing to waste precious minutes worrying about conforming to what people think a mom should wear to the pool. All the searching and trying on and returning and debating and worrying and thinking about a stupid bathing suit just was not worth it to me.
I like bikinis, and so I wear them—proudly. And you should, too.
My body has cohabitated with two humans for 10 months at a time. I’ve completed six marathons. I nourished two babies with milk that I produced out of boobs that grew to the size of the Hoover Dam. My husband shoots me bedroom eyes more times in a week than I can count, and frankly, I’m 40 and my “Give a Damn” is broken.
I won’t wear a cover-up to hide my stretch marks. I don’t care what you think of my soft, marshmallow abdomen. And, if you happen to notice my erect nipples peeking through, then you are probably spending too much time examining my boobs at the pool (seriously, dude, take a picture, it’ll last longer).
Article after article is published promoting positive body image and raising confident daughters and feeling comfortable in our skin. On the other hand, we are bombarded with online magazines showing us celebrities looking amazing in tiny swimsuits thanks to airbrushing and villages of beauty consultants. As soon as the much-loathed “Swimsuit Season” is upon us in May, our newsfeeds are cluttered with ways to look your best, ads to buy swimsuits that magically shave off 50 pounds, and images of women who are all but computer-generated.
Screw that noise.
Why can’t we all just agree to wear what you want, when you want, to the pool, and let’s all have a jolly time. To be honest, I’m more impressed by the woman who is walking to the snack stand in a bikini as her cottage cheese thighs jiggle behind her than I am by the woman who has washboard abs and weighs 100 pounds. I’m more impressed by the mom who strips off her cover-up to reveal pendulous, milk-laden breasts than the woman who is floating in the deep end thanks to her silicone implants.
Women willing to bare their “flaws” in the face of what society deems beautiful are the women I want sitting on the next towel over from me. Those are the women keeping it real, and I raise my stretch-marked arm to them in solidarity. I stand with them as we say, “This is me, this is what you get, and if you don’t like it, go stare at the Barbie floating in the deep end” (no disrespect to Barbie—I’m sure she’s very nice).
Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be slapping some sunscreen on my lily-white stomach as I settle my wobbly thighs into my beach chair to watch my kids frolic in the pool.
Oh, and P.S.: If you do know what ruching is, don’t bother telling me. These abs are doing just fine in the bright, warm summer sun.