Anyone who has ever struggled with body image (and who hasn’t?!) knows that the beach is one of the most challenging places to visit on earth. It’s a judgement zone on steroids (or at least, that’s how it feels) and everyone is next to naked … which makes me horribly squeamish.
Even when I was my thinnest (circa 2004-2005), I only liked laying down or walking around with a sarong at the beach/pool. Rationally, I knew that I had a [mostly] flat belly (a gift even when I wasn’t thin) … but I had dimpled thighs, a big bottom and curvy hips — all “flaws. ”
How sad is that?
Even at my thinnest, I didn’t feel comfortable in a bathing suit.
Completely depressing. I’ve always admired women who sported bikinis and rocked them, exuding confidence I could only dream of … but that isn’t me.
And since becoming a mom, I’ve done my best to avoid the beach/pool … which, surprisingly, hasn’t been that hard (til now).
First, Maya was born in the winter and we couldn’t start swim lessons til she was 6 months old — so I made Luis get in the pool with her most of the time, saving me the embarrassment of swim lessons at the Y.
Second, pools are rare here in Michigan, so I never had to worry about tons of pool parties–the few we’ve gone to have been poolside vs. “pool”. (“Safe and secure,” in my mind).
And finally, last summer we got a pass at beachin’ it because I was very pregnant and we had just moved, so literally every weekend was shot with moving/unpacking/organizing.
But now that Maya is older and has been exposed to lots of pools and beaches, we see a lot more swimsuit-appropriate activities in the future: water parks, pool parties, beach trips … Kids love the beach, sand, surf. And we live in a part of the country full of great lakes (pardon the pun) … so there’s really no excuse for me anymore.
And so I’ve known for a while that I’d need to put aside my issues and just do it: pony up and wear a bathing suit in public. On beach vacations over the past few years I’ve felt slightly less miserable in a swimsuit; probably because I was 1) with my family and 2) in places where I knew no one (Jamaica and El Salvador).
Which brings me to this week in California.
I’m not my thinnest–far from it–but I’m a mom of two kids now … but I’m a mom who doesn’t want to be sidelined. Marginalized. Left out of the fun. I want to splash and jump and swim and play without worrying someone is judging me (chances are, they’re not: their nose is buried in a book, they are chasing their toddler, or they are sipping their fourth fruity drink of the day … not paying attention to my noticeable lack of a thigh gap).
And so I just said, “the hell with it” and ignored the voices inside my head and wore a swimsuit and played with my kids.
What’s funny is I’d been drafting this post in my head while on vacation ever since I saw this pic my mom had taken, when a similar post by blogger Jessica Turner came blasting through my Facebook newsfeed from all angles.
Granted, it’s not a full body shot and I realized after the fact I am, indeed, wearing a sarong (we’d crossed the street to the beach and it had gotten chilly at dusk) but the point is, I love how happy I look and felt in this moment, holding my sweet baby boy while the gentle, salty Pacific breeze caressed our sun-kissed skin.
I don’t know if I’ll ever truly “not care” while wearing a swimsuit or ever be genuinely comfortable in my own skin, but for the sake of my children, I am going to fake it til I make it. If you’re feeling doubts yourself, I hope you’ll join me (and Jessica Turner) in this “mission.” We have nothing to lose … except millions of potential memories with our kids.