Two reasons in particular made it seem especially appropriate: Mrs. Fatass' "Exposed" post on MizFitOnline last year really moved me, and she plays a big role in this tale. And today I was especially "light-bulbed" by the retrospective by Mary of "A Merry Life": "Exposed, Take 2: Still Awesome". She wrote about why she felt people view the Exposed movement as "brave": "We were/are all brave for not being ashamed. We are brave for doing this because technically in our society we are supposed to be ashamed....The message seems pretty clear after hearing it my whole life: 'if your body isn’t perfect you should be ashamed of it.'" I highly recommend reading her whole post.
What struck me also is that, even people who seem to me to have perfect, lovely bodies often don't see it in themselves. Of all the people I pass in the gym, for example, which are content? How many feel awkward in their bra and shorts, or get anxious if they can't keep up the work it takes to not feel awkward? Think of what we could focus on and do if we weren't, as a culture, so obsessed with appearance and consumption.
Okay, that's enough "ado." On with the post!
Last month, Thing 2 started asking me interesting questions:
"What if you wanted your hair to be straight, and not curly?"
"What if you didn't want to wear glasses?"
"What if you wanted to wear a bikini?"I was mystified...she has straight hair, does not wear glasses, and enjoys wearing the little bikini bathing suit she got for her 6th birthday. She was not using this as a roundabout way to discuss changing things about herself...she's only 6. I realized she talking about me. Did I want these things about me to be different.
"Well, no, I love my hair just like it is. I don't mind wearing glasses, but sure, it would be easier if I didn't need to do so. And I like my one-piece bathing suit."(Well, my favorite is a tankini, but you get the idea!) I finally asked her why she asked me those questions.
Thing 2: "Because sometimes, on TV, they try to make you want those things."
Pubsgal [catching balance after reeling from the internal "whoa!"]: "They sure do, don't they? But we're too smart to fall for that, right?"
Thing 2: "Yes!"But even so, I couldn't help but think there was something else under the question.
Then one day, I stumbled across a post by Sue Ann (aka the fabulous Mrs. Fatass) on her blog "Did I Just Eat That Out Loud?", titled "The Bikini Promise." Her resolve to not wait, to rock that bikini THIS year as promised, reminded me a lot of some of the crazy stunts I decided to do before I felt like I "looked" the part.
One part of her post seemed written just for me. It's not the line people quoted most often in the comments, but it's one that sure clicked with me, given the recent questions from Thing 2: "Parenting 101 tells us that our daughters don’t hear the compliments we bestow on them nearly as loudly as they hear our critical comments to ourselves."
And then it clicked: my actions were speaking louder than even my lack of self-critical words to myself! My beautiful daughter had unknowingly zeroed in on my last vestige of body shame. I know, not everyone chooses a one piece over a bikini from body shame: a one-piece suit just feels right for them. I had thought that was the case for me, that a one piece was more "appropriate" for me, but this really removed the blinders. What a powerful gift I could give to her, I thought, if I were to wear a bikini - boldly, joyfully - just like her! Presuming, of course, I could find a bikini that I could feel comfortable wearing, especially to avoid the, er, "my cup runeth over" effect, which makes it a little harder to rock the bikini look as boldly as a 6-year-old.
So I emailed Sue Ann, on the chance that her bikini supplier might also have something that would fit me, and she directed me to the Athleta web site (and gave the invaluable pointer to check the sale page). So many gorgeous bikinis on sale! Alas, it was nearly impossible to find a set that had both tops and bottoms in my size. So I took a chance and ordered a top there, then I went to Lands End and ordered bottoms.
The packages arrived. Gulp. The moment of truth. I put on the bikini. I fussed with the top a bit. (One of the "girls" is a little larger than the other, and I wondered if it looked too lopsided.) I dared to ask Mr. Handsome-and-Handy some questions; he dared to answer, brave man!
Him: "Hey, a bikini! Congratulations!"
Me: Um, yep. Does it look okay?"
Me: "Are you sure?"
Me [gulp, it's kind of...revealing...I'd better get this over with and ask the most important question]: "Would you be embarrassed about me wearing it?"
Me: "Okay then."Enter Thing 2.
Me: "Look! Mommy's got a bikini! What do you think?"
Thing 2 [scrutinizing]: "It's not right."
Thing 2: "You need to show your belly button."
[Thing 2 scootched the front of the waistband down a little, showing off my navel.]
Me: [light bulb moment of the fashion clueless] "Ooooohhhh....So, does it work now?"
Thing 2: "You look beautiful!"Well, success, even if I did get the bottoms wrong. I first wore it during our Lompoc trip. The bottoms came in handy for my tri, because I went 2-piece for the swim, with my fortress-like sports bra on top. (Which meant I didn't have 4 pounds of wet tankini top dragging me down, too; yeay!) Sure, I have not felt comfortable wearing a bikini in nearly 30 years, for various reasons. Losing a bunch of body fat left some loose skin here & there; I have a tummy with stretch marks and a couple of tiny lapriscope scars, and "Summer of Core" didn't completely transform the surface. (And one piece or two, the loose thigh skin is gonna show, that's just how it is.) But darned if knowing THIS body just carried me to the finish line of a triathlon that very morning didn't give me that extra bit of confidence during the bikini debut later in the afternoon at the pool.
And there I was! Just another mom at the pool, cavorting with the kids. It felt great!
So that's how I stopped worrying and learned to love my bikini...and more importantly, the body that's in it.
(Thanks, Sue Ann!!!)