It’s that time again…time for the interweb, magazines, and mailboxes to fill up with horrific images of skinny people in bathing suits reminding us normal people that’s is swimsuit time.
While we all look forward to our dreams of margaritas, and palm trees the grim truth remains; we can’t dress like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story to brave the polar vortex and hide our flaws much longer.
My sister and I have FINALLY planned our Bahamian cruise/ Disney vacation extraordinaire for her really belated 40th birthday celebration. This trip has been through so many “next year”, and “maybe someday” routines I’ll be damned if I let the tears of trying on a bathing suit at Target stop it.
It all started several weeks ago. I took Gwen to Target (mistake number 1) to try on bathing suits sober (mistake number 2). I know you are all reading that like Gwen was sober? Yes, shocking that my ten year old was sober, so was I. There we were, hopped on a full fat breakfast from Panera, some chocolate milk, and a latte (mistake number 3), and standing in a circus mirror with horrific lighting, near tears, and mostly naked. My internal monologue went into overdrive. The rotating loop of negative comments I could make about myself was on fast play so on top of being negative, they all sounded like munchkins from Oz AND I was in Mom mode desperately trying to set a good example on body image for Gwen so she didn’t grow up looking at herself and thinking terrible thoughts. Mom of the year that I am gave up too quickly, looked at Gwen, said, “I need better lighting.” Gwen replied, “and a tan.” I pursed my lips, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. I know what the preying mantis eats their young. I went to VS, paid more than I wanted to, but thank you Oprah, the lighting in there is soft, and they had a one piece! I forgot my troubles, went home, and promptly distracted myself from the day’s stress (with a bag of Oreos).
A few weeks later, one of my dear friends reminded me the VS catalog is out (an epic occasion to cry over how “padded” I’ve become over the winter months, how old I’ve gotten, and how gorgeous I’ll never be) on the same day my sister called because she made my very same rookie mistake at Target, with her daughter, sober (both of them). I had forgotten the swimsuit issue AND the experience at Target because for years I’ve been doing two things: 1) don’t look down 2) forget about it. While I made the mistake of looking in the mirror at Target, I certainly remembered to forget about it.
Years ago when I was 200 pounds I didn’t want to go on the beach at all. I went from being a babe to having a baby and looked like it. I had stretch marks, wobbly bits, 60 extra pounds, and NO desire to do anything about it. Luckily, we were in Europe and no one cared. Sure there were beautiful women, topless, next to us, but there were also larger women, topless, next to us. FANTASTIC! Body image over there is so different. I put on my bathing suit, refused to look down, and learned to not care! Best summers ever.
We moved back to the US a few years later and I forgot, people here DO care, and so did my doctors. They hounded me to lose weight because I wasn’t healthy. I lost weight but not the stretch marks, the wobbly bits, the “porcelain skin”, the blue veins that were now turning purple, was my hair thinning too? Shit! Oh and I also have wrinkles, everywhere. Botox only covers the face, ladies, get it anywhere else and you just stop “glistening”.
If it worked in Europe it was going to have to work here too…I kept not looking down and it was liberating. My neighbor, a former bodybuilder, had had 2 kids and always wore shorts to the pool. For years I told her she was insane, and should just stop looking down. Really, she looks fine to me. She is in her 20s, her skin is still pretty elastic. I told her that but she didn’t care, she knew how she felt. She finally bought a red one piece last year and stopped wearing clothing into the pool. I am so proud of her.
Here’s the thing ladies, we all look like crap in florescent lighting. We look better in natural lighting, or better yet, dim lights, or the dark. Insert some more advice here about having a drink before making important decisions about bathing suits, insert some more psycho babble about being happy with your tree here blabla, but really…don’t look down. That’s the best advice ever.
We are all real people, unphotoshopped, jiggly, had a baby, didn’t have a baby, have a few pounds or several pounds, lost weight or didn’t, we are real people and I don’t think one of us is going to look at a fellow sister at the pool and think, “you shoulda worn the shorts.” No! We wouldn’t. If you did you’re just an A-hole. We’d compare our veins, our rolls, pass the vodka disguised as lemonade to look more responsible, and curse the latest wrinkle, and see who gets the cheaper Botox.
Here’s a WILD idea! Don’t look at yourself that closely. Just don’t, nothing good comes out of it. Try on a bathing suit, FEEL it. Can you breathe? You have a winner. Now go home, have another drink and forget what just happened. When you put the suit on, make sure it’s sitting as well as it will, grab another vodka lemonade, head to the pool, and don’t look down. Pay attention to the beautiful day, and instead of making fun of yourself, make fun of the dad sucking it in when he walks past the teenage girls.