I think most people can relate to feeling nervous or embarrassed [or terrified] about putting on a swimsuit and revealing our flesh suit to the world. And, contrary to popular belief, this issue plagues all genders. It’s not picky.
As if somehow everyone has x-ray telepathy and knows the one or three areas we are nervous about and will ONLY FOCUS ON THOSE and then go tell their friends and then THEY WILL ALL LAUGH at our cellulite or tummy roll or boobs or lack thereof or weird birth mark in the shape of Shamu.
And then we will feel sad all day.
Now, I’ve certainly had my fair share of panic around showing my body to the world. Even when I was 19 and at the pool with my then-boyfriend and his friends, I wore a bathing suit top and pajama pants. Black pajama pants. Just lying in the sunshine in long, black pants… As one does.
When I slipped into the hot tub with the group, I made them all look away while I quickly took off my pants and got into the water. Because I guess if they saw my thigh meat, they’d become blinded… Or no longer want to be my friend… Or some other sort of adorably catastrophized worst case scenario.
Keep in mind… I was 19. I likely had a lovely, tight ass.
I’m not even sure what I was afraid of. I just know that showing my body was terrifying. Physical, deep-down, fight / flight / freeze sort of terror. I feel my tummy in knots just thinking of how stressed I used to get about it.
I held so much shame about my body, especially my thighs. I really don’t know where that began. I know as early as 11 years old I refused to wear shorts. Even swimming in the lake one time, I wore jeans. (I don’t recommend doing that. It’s a drowning hazard. Jeans get really heavy when filled with water.)
In my twenties, I dealt with disordered eating and a bit of the ol’ body dysmorphia. I counted calories and limited my intake and forced myself to exercise every day, twice a day. Only then did I finally feel okay in a bathing suit, when I was about 30 pounds UNDERweight.
Wanna’ know why I felt okay wearing a swimsuit? Because I felt better than. I lived in a world where people’s worth was based on the external world: looks, cars, houses, money. If I was the skinniest person at a pool or on the beach, I felt good enough.
If I saw a girl who was thinner than me, I’d panic. I’d clam up.
Any time I went anywhere, bathing suit or fully clothed, I’d scan the location and look at all the women… To see who was a threat. To see if I was the prettiest or the skinniest.
I got my sense of security and confidence by comparing myself to others. On aesthetics alone.
It was an obsession. And it was constant. Movies, ex-girlfriends of the guy I was dating, etc. I’d always find a way to compare to see if I was greater or lesser than… If I was safe or had something to worry about (or more weight to lose).
It’s bizarre for me to think that I lived that way for so long. And it wows me to see how far I’ve come.
Yesterday, I went to the pool with my boyfriend and his kiddos. I wore a bathing suit bottom that my ass inevitably eats and turns into a thong (because it does that with any sort of underpant clothing item)… and a sports bra up top because my bathing suit top is hiding from me and I know as soon as I buy another one the original top will show up out of nowhere. So fuck you, old top. I will win this fight.
You know what I realized last night?
I didn’t pay attention to a single other person while I was at the pool. I don’t remember bathing suit colors or how big anyone’s boobs were. I remember glancing up and seeing one woman with a nice tan and a fit body, and I thought, “Wow, she looks fit.” And then went back to doing water ballet with the 5-year-old.
THIS. IS. A MIRACLE.
(And it’s one of the benefits of hanging with kids. They demand a lot of attention, and it’s nearly impossible to be all up in my thoughts when I’m putting on a water dance show to an imaginary audience with a 5-year-old in a flamingo swimsuit.)
This is as miraculous as the first day I woke up and wasn’t hungover and was like, “Wait. I don’t feel like shit. What’s happening?” And then I realized I had not only NOT had alcohol the day prior; I hadn’t even THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
If you’ve ever struggled with addiction, you understand how amazing of a feeling that is. It’s a taste of FREEDOM.
I am a heterosexual cisgender female and the pressure I’ve felt and put on myself to be a certain kind of way has been exhausting. My boyfriend and other men I know struggle too. Not just with physical looks, but with other things… Like how much money they have or how big their house is.
I can’t even begin to imagine how challenging body image stuff is for folks on different areas of the gender spectrum.
You know what I’m learning? These bodies… They’re simply our vehicles. They allow us to boot scootin’ boogie around this physical earth plane and do hood rat shit with our friends. On a soul level – if you believe in that kind of thing (I do) – we don’t get have the physical or emotional experience without bodies. We exist in a constant, formless state of expansion and peace. Which sounds great.
But let’s be real.
It’d get boring after a while.
And so in some sort of magical way, this world was created. Maybe it was a big kaboom in the sky. Maybe it was a bearded Zeus god. Maybe we’re in the Matrix or in a tiny Universe inside a tiny marble on a cat’s collar. Maybe it’s all of the above, or just a super advanced virtual reality from the future.
Regardless how we got here, we are here. Right now. In this moment. You’re reading this with your eyeballs. YOU ARE LOOKING AT SQUIGGLY LINES AND COMPREHENDING COMPLEXITIES THROUGH A BIG HUNK OF ELECTRIFIED FLESH CALLED A BRAIN.
I’m typing this using my phalanges… These weird pointy things which extend from my hand and help me do things like draw and paint and get crusties out of my SigO’s sleepy eyes first thing in the morning.
My legs and feet allow me to move, to walk, to dance, to squat down to pick things up. My mouth gives me the privilege of tasting food, of drinking water, and of feeling the lips and tongue of my mate during a hardcore makeout sesh.
These bodies are not here for looks. They’re here for utility. They’re here to tote us around so we can experience as much of this life as possible. And whether your vehicle has scratches or dents or cracks doesn’t matter. It may have faded paint or make some rickety noises when it moves. It may take a while to warm up, and it may not be able to go as fast as some of the newer models.
But… It’s brought you this far. And it’s done a bangin’ job keeping you alive.
So, let’s go into swimsuit season with an attitude adjustment. Let’s have gratitude for our vehicles, our bodies. Let’s remember all they’ve done for us. And let’s be tender with them. Let’s feed them good fuel and do what we can to care for their exterior without obsession.
And even if our vehicle isn’t some shiny model-car that makes people go “oooo” and “aahhh”… If those folks had any idea of the shit storms and pain and lessons and earthquakes we’d survived in these vehicles, they’d be blown away.
So that’s the little secret we get to have with ourselves. We know what we’ve been through more than anyone else does. Because we are the only ones having each of our individual experiences. My road trip is totally different than anyone else’s in the world.
And so, while some people might look at my scars with curiosity or a crinkled face, I’m choosing to walk with my shoulders back and my bathing-suit-bottom-eating ass proudly jiggling… Because I know the pain I’ve been through. I know the lessons I’ve learned. I know the times I’ve chosen love and forgiveness over resentment. I know how giant my heart is, and how it grows each day.
And THAT makes me the sexiest I’ve ever been.