I ordered a tankini online this week. We have a vacation planned for late May, and I just wanted something different and brave and new.
The box arrived yesterday morning, and my husband’s face lit up. I was hoping the top would graze the high-waisted bottom, so my skin wouldn’t really show. It was clear on my husband’s face that, as always, he was hoping for the opposite.
I opened the package, and I could immediately see that the top wouldn’t touch the bottom, but I put it on anyway. I turned around to face my husband.
“Don’t say no until you look in the mirror! I really don’t think you’re going to hate it! It’s the best swimsuit I’ve ever seen on you. I love it.”
I took a deep breath, and stepped into our third bedroom, which is currently full of unopened moving boxes. It is also the home of my only full-length mirror.
As I suspected, several inches of my round belly showed. About a centimeter of purple, vertical scar stuck out of the waistband, too.
My C-section scar isn’t on my bikini line like most. Remember that round belly I mentioned? Well, when my first baby went into distress after 40 hours of labor, it was easier to cut right into it than worry about aesthetics, so he was born from an incision to the right of my belly button but quite a bit higher. My second son emerged the same way.
That line is purple, crooked and impossible to hide.
But the moment I saw the swimsuit, I excitedly took this crooked, cropped mirror selfie, and I sent it to two of my girlfriends with a text that said, “I’m keeping it.”
I walked out beaming, to find my husband beaming just as hard back at me. We both knew it wasn’t going back.
But despite how young and carefree and summery and excited I felt, and despite the giant smile on my face, I still felt the need to ask him, “Are you sure I shouldn’t cover my stomach? What about my scar?”
“You mean the proof you had my babies? Katie. You deserve to feel the sun on your skin like everyone else.”
And I do.
I deserve to feel the sun on my skin like everyone else. Like every BODY else.
I deserve to be warmed by sunbeams, and to feel ocean water on a peek of bare skin, and to wear clothing that helps me stay comfortable in the heat of a Southern summer. I deserve to lay in the sand, even if my body covers more of that beach than someone else’s. I deserve to drink sparkling fruity drinks at the swim-up bar and kiss my husband in the pool in the warmth of the midday.
I deserve to disregard every negative opinion of my body and truly live, because I am a person — not a collection of flaws and imperfections.
My husband knows the story behind every inch of my body, and I want to wear the swimsuit he loves to show him that his opinion of me is more important than the potential opinions of strangers.
He knows about the diets and squats challenges and Fitbits and miles-long walks and YouTube workouts that are a part of my life, believe it or not.
He also knows about all the midnights when one of us rolled over in the darkness and said, “You know what sounds good right now?” and we hopped out of bed with giant grins on our faces to make carbonara, or grilled cheese sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies, which we then ate while belly laughing to Bruce Almighty for the 100th time.
This man knows my life, my habits, my body — and he loves me, not because of my fat or despite it. He just loves me. And I have fat. Those two things are facts of my life. I’m as sure about his love for me as I am about the size of my body.
I appreciate his love for me because being loved by a good man is something I always knew I wanted, and I would never take for granted how I feel when I’m safe in his arms.
But his love for me only makes my existence more happy — it doesn’t make it any more valid.
I would be just as worthy of sun and sand and laughter and fun and respect and the freedom to just BE — even if not a single man or woman on planet earth wanted to see my body.
My body isn’t worthy because someone loves it. It’s worthy because it’s where I live. I am important enough on my own.
I’m 33 years old. I’ve spent a lot of summers trying to cover myself as much as possible hoping that it would send a message that I realized that I am unacceptable as I am. My swimsuits have all said, “Don’t notice me. Don’t be cruel. I know I’m too much, and that means I’m not enough.”
No more. NOT ANYMORE.
I have a lot of summers left on this planet, I think, and I’m not going to spend them in clothes that make me sweaty and bathing suits that make me feel like a grandma.
Because I deserve to feel the sun on my skin like everyone else.
You, my beautiful reader, deserve to feel the sun on your skin like everyone else.
The time to hide is over. Join me out here. It’s going to be great.