I did something today that I haven’t done in a few years. It took some courage, I must say. I tried on swimsuits. It was not pleasant. I lived to tell about it, and I’m grateful for that. I’m sure some people have fainted while trying on swimwear--it can be that much of a shock! Honestly, it was humbling. Quite humbling.
Let’s examine the facts. I am 40 years old and I have given birth to three large babies. My poor stomach did not bounce back and has more loose skin than a Shar pei. I’d love to have the stomach I had at 21—flat and slightly muscled. And shoot, I don’t even have any photos of my glory days. But back to the present. Swim suits are not my clothing of choice. But it’s warming up and I will take the three kiddos to the pool this summer. If swimming were manageable in a mumu and straw hat I’d wear that. Full coverage, my friends—and I’m talking about more than sunscreen!
I do have a swimsuit that still has stretch to it. I can wear that. But it’s not ideal for lap-swimming, and I may do a little of that this summer. Last week, I went into a store near our house to buy kids’ clothes. Somehow I took a wrong turn and found myself lost in the middle of a tropical jungle of fluorescent orange swimwear. I resolved not to panic and tried to find my way out of the swimwear maze. In my attempt to retrace my steps I spotted a few one-pieces. Eventually I managed to find my way back to kids’ wear. Fast forward a week. Today I was back at the same store, inexplicably marching toward swimwear. If I wanted to do some laps this summer, I needed a suit that would stay where I put it. I was a little curious about the suits that claimed to make you look ten pounds thinner instantly—it’s on their tag. I tried one on, and it’s possible that the diagonal cut across the front made my waist look a little more cinched-in. But I can’t say for sure because it seemed to me that the ten pounds that may have left my waist immediately were forced south and this was not, NOT a welcome trade. No sirree, back to the drawing board.
I tried on another suit in a great color but it was too low-cut for me and the shoulder straps seemed destined to flop down. I ended up leaving without a suit but I did buy a pair of shorts, the other item on my shopping list. (Believe me, shopping for shorts is no easy feat, either. What are shorts, really, except the bottom half of a bikini, the only item scarier to shop for than a one-piece swim suit!)
(I can’t believe I’m confessing all this online. I have only shown one friend my sad, sad tummy, but here I am, posting the grim details of my stomach for all the world to read. Oh, well. Perhaps there’s some bonding to be done among ladies who have had pregnancies and stretch marks, or who have passed 100,000 miles on the odometer, as I have. Yes, let’s laugh about it so I am distracted from my panic attack.)
I’ll pause my self-effacing swimsuit tale for a minute and say that I do celebrate people’s right to wear whatever they like at the beach or pool. I remember seeing a seniors’ water exercise class at a pool years ago. I thought it was awesome that the ladies wanted to be healthy and get some exercise and that they didn’t shy away from it because their bikini days were over. These eighty-year-old ladies were not in their prime, I’ll be honest. But I think it takes a lot of courage to don a swimsuit in public! These ladies had pluck. And I’m a big advocate of beauty not being defined by your size. That lesson took a long time to sink in. But let’s be real for a minute. Most of us wish some of our body parts looked different. Especially after having three big babies, I must face reality and admit that the bod looks different than it did ten years ago. I do exercise daily—my low blood pressure is evidence of that. I try to eat healthfully and I have excellent cholesterol levels because of that. But I won’t starve myself just to look better in a swimsuit. Will I continue to exercise? Yes. I’ll do it to be healthy—and frankly, I’ll also do it because I have an ego and I’d like to look not bad for forty, instead of just letting gravity yank down every last part of me. I have to put up a fight!
An hour ago I googled “the horrors of swimsuit shopping.” I wasn’t sure if there would be any exact matches but it seems this theme is nearly universal for women. I read a few accounts of other ladies’ trauma in the swimwear department. Some of these women were hilarious! One in particular I highly recommend. Sadly, my attempts to speak nicely to the computer and get it to link to that post are not working. So instead, go to Google and search "Marcia Richards, Diary of a Swimsuit Shopper." Reading Marcia’s post on swimwear gave me some good laughs. When you can’t wave a magic wand and change your reality, laughing about it is highly therapeutic.
Even though my expedition today was humbling—even more so than I anticipated!—I’ll still head to the pool this summer. I want to splash around with my kids and I’m not going to let self- consciousness prevent me from living. Join us, if you like. Look for us in the shallow end. I’ll be the one in the mumu and straw hat.