If Selena Gomez, who is barely bigger than the spoon I’m using to stir collagen into my coffee, has been criticized for what she looks like in a bikini, then why would I want to venture my blubbery and much bigger figure into the world of body shaming?
Yesterday, stores were finally allowed to re-open, and the thrift shop was top on my thirteen-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s list. After 45 minutes of waiting on sun-drenched paint splotches six feet apart, we were finally let loose inside. With an imposed 20-minute shopping time limit, it was like Guy’s Grocery Games meets second-hand store apparel and my daughter tossed sale-priced clothing into her basket faster than the Easter Bunny on amphetamines.
“What do you think, Mom?” She asked, shaking a bikini in front of my nose the color of Duchess Kate’s wedding ring stone — and just about the same size. My heart momentarily fluttered before falling back into a regular rhythm. Here we are, thought my brain. The bathing suit impasse. My previous too-religiously-strict, no-belly-showing swimsuit regulations were being tested, and just as suddenly, a wispy, contented surrender settled over me as I realized it didn’t matter.
“You should get one too!” she said, rifling through the rack as though I was Tyra Banks readying myself for Victoria’s Secret cover shoot. Her voice held no disdain or element of teasing. She was seriously asking me to consider buying myself a bathing suit that would bare my muffin top. Me in a bikini, my baffled insides screeched sarcastically. Now that would be a sight to behold!
Recently the lover who worships my too-big-to-be-a-chimney-sweep bootie had made me a deal. If I would go in public in a bikini then he, more of a thrasher than a swimmer, would don a life jacket and jump into a pool’s deep end.
I fingered a bikini the shade of a blushing pig that seemed barely large enough to cover much epidermis. And just like that something – perhaps the voice of my lover – whispered, “Buy. It.”
So I did.
“The truth is, I am not fat,” she [Allison Kimmey] said. “No one IS fat. It’s not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy.”
When I tried it on, my daughter hoisted two thumbs. If she saw the folds that had housed her flopping over my waistband she said nothing.
Suddenly, as though hit by a UFO’s blue ice, I start to understand that my daughter’s truth and my personal narrative overlap but aren’t the same. While I see myself as fat, my teen views me as an extra-cushioned hug. The reality is that she knows me for what I do, not for what I look like. To her, I am the mom who stumbles into her running gear at 5:00 am and the woman who sometimes forces her spawn/victims to walk errands or do yoga. She cheered me on as I limped across Disney’s finish line after 4 days of running 48.6 miles (78km).
And even if I don’t do any of that — I am still the one who snuggled her both inside and outside of my womb. I run fingers through her hair as she cries into my chest. I unquestionably love and support her.
What I eye up as oodles of paunch is, to her, simply Mom. I’m not saying she is blind to the plump — just that, in her belief structure, it is merely part of the ma package rather than what, in my mind, defines me.
I have spent decades watching my own mother despise herself. Do I want that for my daughter?
“Let’s sit out back in our bikinis!” my daughter urged.
So I did.
“You have an awesome body — it works hard and it takes you places — it lets you run. Always remember that your body works hard for you — love it.” — A friend’s text
“Remember that you don’t have to wear it at all if it makes you that uncomfortable. It’s all up to you,” my running partner insisted as we huffed our way to the end of 9km. “But if you’re going to, then just wean yourself in. Start by just wearing the top with shorts. Sit in your yard. Go for a bike ride. Whatever. Just do it in stages. ”
So I did.
“Send me a pic,” a few friends requested.
And so I did.