Here comes summer! That wonderful time of year when we have been conditioned to sit on the sidelines or rather, stay out of the water. After all, our bodies looking nothing like those online. Whether it’s a different size, has different markings, or is proportioned differently, we have been told over and over and over again, ad nausiuem, how to best cover up the parts of ourselves that are vile to the general public. (Spoiler alert- it’s our whole entire selves if we believe what they are pedaling). Though, we are the general public, so, idk.
A little google predictive text game shows us what’s on our collective minds; how can we best cover up our bodies this year if we want to:
- a) take our children to the beach
- b) go swimming with our family on our summer vacation
- c) want to generally be a part of the fun and memories that are in and around water
We have been told so many times, in so many ways that we need to cover up our body that we cannot seem to consider there might be another option.
I am not talking about bucking it all and running around naked through the crowded sands. I am not talking about giving a big middle finger to the mom and dad riding the water slide with their kids by stripping down to nothing. I am talking about putting on swimwear that is comfortable, our style, and you know, meant for the water.
I am talking about a differnt approach when we go bathing suit shopping. Instead of staring at the cellulite on our upper rear thighs or ogling our stomach that has been given demeaning and hateful names that pretend to be cute (think Muffin Top. Sweet Jesus.) we shift our mindset. We look for suits that fit our lifestyle and then we -gasp- wear them to -gasp- PLAY IN THE WATER!
We don’t cover up our bodies unless it’s because we love the cover-up. We don’t keep shorts and a t-shirt over them. We don’t sweat nearly to death on the ocean’s edge because we are too ashamed of this body we live in to PLAY with our friends and family in the water- the cool, inviting, happy, luxurious water!
How I Started Wearing a Bathing Suit and Stopped Feeling Self-Conscious
A few years ago something in me shifted. After decades of sitting on the sidelines and watching my family and friends live life I’d had enough. My kids were getting older. My son was approaching my height. I knew our days at the beach were numbered. I didn’t want to miss one more opportunity to be with my kids in the water.
I love the water. Love it. I could -and do- swim for hours. Whether it’s the ocean or a pool I will stay in for hours. Literally hours. I swim every Friday at the gym. Something happens to me in the water and I feel such joy and calm.
I love body surfing and being knocked over by the waves. I love love love doing handstands in the pool. I love diving in, going as deep as I can and feeling the water gracefully part as I make my way up.
I love the quiet under there. The stillness. The way all of life slows down and lets me see and feel it. Inhale it.
I love diving into an ocean wave and knowing I have entered another world. A kingdom with its own lifeforms and villages. Beings who have lived here forever, or almost.
I love emerging from a wave and the freshness and invigoration that accompanies it- the joyous laughter that feels so good as it leaves me to become part of the world.
Who I am in the water is awesome. I want my kids to know that. I want to play with them in the waves and the pool and the waterpark. I want to share a tube as we go down the Brain Drainer. I want to wait in line on the stairs with them while we talk about nothings as we wait together.
I want to be part of the memory when we talk about how long we had to wait in line that day when it was a hundred and ten degrees and what it was like when we had to haul out of the ocean because a lightning storm moved in. I want to be part of the story- not hear about the story.
As a mom of a tween and teen I know these are the everything the moments.
The water is the only place I can still pick up my children and snuggle them- or throw them- into an oncoming wave.
The water is a place where they still throw their arms around me with abandon and laugh right out loud. The sounds of crashing waves drown out their awkward transition from child to grown-up and let them just be my tiny kids again.
A few years ago I realized what was coming. I decided that enjoying every moment like this that I have with my children is way more valuable than letting some stupid ass tell me I should stay on the sidelines because they don’t like the way my body looks. My body!
So I ordered a bathing suit from Lands End. It’s not a skirt and does not have a bottom that will ride up my ass. It’s a pair of swim shorts and a tank top. It’s not girly, feminine. But it’s pretty. And comfortable. And meant to get wet. It’s not shorts and a t-shirt that take forever to dry and that turn us immobile with their weight when wet. It’s not me pretending I don’t like to swim or that I forgot my swimsuit.
It’s a bathing suit. Meant to be worn in the water. And I love the water. And I love my kids. So I wear my bathing suit in the water without self-consciousness.
Wait, What? Really?
In fact, though it’s near impossible to believe, I literally don’t even think about the fact that I am wearing a bathing suit anymore. It has become so natural. So comfortable. I walk the beach without a t-shirt on. I get right up from my lounge chair and dive into the pool without having to uncover or take off anything. Without running and keeping my arms over my stomach so I won’t ruin people’s beautiful day with my ugly body. It’s so easy. And comfortable.
I want my kids to see me in a bathing suit. I want to stop the cycle right here of pretending I hate to swim or that no, I do not want to cool down when it’s 200 degrees and a thousand percent humidity. I want our family’s future to be one that says “yes” because it’s fun instead of “no” because society says I shouldn’t. Jesus!
I know this feels far away for many of you reading. I wish it didn’t. I wish I could tell you specifically what changed for me but I don’t remember. I just know that a few years ago I was done not playing. Not feeling. Not being playful. Missing being an actual part of the memories.
I wasn’t angry or resentful, it was just a line in the sand and I’ve never gone back. I am never going back.
Now, I go to the beach with friends and family who could be in magazines modeling bathing suits. I sit there right next to them and chat away as though I don’t notice at all… because guess what? I don’t.
No longer do I feel self-conscious or like I should hide myself because our bodies look different. In fact, I don’t really think about my body at all- except for how grateful I am to feel the water break over it. How lucky I am to be able to feel the arms of one of my kids pass over my shoulders for a soaking wet hug.
That I get to be right there to see my daughter’s face when it emerges from being knocked over by the BIGGEST WAVE EVER! That I get to be right there when my teenage son comes up from under water with his snorkel mask clumping his face together just the same as when he was 3 to say “MOM! I just saw a whole school of fish!”. That I don’t have to wait until they’ve come out of the water to hear these things, when the pure, unbridled excitement is gone.
An Unsolicited Wish from My Heart to Yours
From one mom to another- from one woman to another- I hope you will play this summer. I hope you will find a suit that is comfortable. Not one that makes others comfortable but one that feels comfortable on your body. One that doesn’t dig in under your right arm or feel like you are cutting yourself in half at the waste. One that you can move easily in and feels good.
I hope you will find that comfortable suit and buy it and wear it. I hope that instead of spending your precious beach and pool days justifying your existence to the voices in your head you will take one hundred percent of your energy and put it toward your play, your enjoyment of your time in the water or at the beach.
I hope you will run into the water and think of how cold it feels on your toes instead of how much your skin must be moving.
I hope you will dive into that wave and think “this is the most glorious moment of my life and I feel so alive!” instead of wondering who might be thinking you have some nerve subjecting them to who you are.
I hope you will get yourself situated on that tube with your kid and think of nothing but how precious and special this moment is as you holler with glee on your way down Aquazoid.
We are women. Women are people. People have bodies. All of them are different. We have been told to hate them. That they are gross. That not one body belonging to any one of us is worthy of gracing the world with its uncovered presence.
We have been told this our whole lives and it is complete, total, and utter bullshit.
I hope that this summer you’ll find your line drawn in the sand too. I hope that the other side of that line finds you and yours – whether that’s kids, dogs, or books- playing joyously and sinking into the beauty of having those moments tougher in the sun and sand.
I hope that this is the summer you realize it was never about whether or not our bodies are worthy. Because they are. Every single one of our bodies. Exactly as they are. Especially yours.
CHALLENGE ALERT! As I was writing this post it occurred to me that not everyone knows about this stuff. I recorded a quick podcast about it. Recording the podcast had it occur to me that we should offer each other some support and encouragement to #wearabathingsuit. Sooo… when you opt in to wearing a bathing suit this summer, share a photo of the moment you got to be a part of (or of you in your suit if you want!). And tag it #wearabathingsuit. Also, join us in our Facebook group and share it there too! You can join here.
Here is the quick podcast with more:
Thank you so much for reading! Follow Pondering Jen on social or sign up for our newsletter to stay connected!