Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Pieces

Today, the anniversary of the "Exposed" movement, seemed like a good day to run this post.  I've had it sitting in the queue for awhile now.  

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?"
Him: "Yes."
Me: "Are you sure?"
Him: "Yes."
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?"
Him: "No."
Me: "Okay then."
Enter Thing 2.
Me:  "Look!  Mommy's got a bikini!  What do you think?"
Thing 2 [scrutinizing]:  "It's not right."
Me: "Huh?"
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!!!)


Jill said...

Awesome!! I think you look great!! :)

Brooke said...

(((thing 2)))) hilarious that she folded it down under your belly button. work it girl!! :)

ps - melissa is coming up with an evil ploy to get all the shrinking jeans girls exposed! :-O

Roni said...

You look AWESOME! and what a great post!

Mary - A Merry Life said...

Great post! You look awesome!!!

Lori said...

Thing 2 is a wise little one. Amazing.

debby said...

Amazing. Fantastic. I am so impressed with your wisdom and motherliness, and yes, with how good you look in a bikini!

Sagan said...

SQUEE I'm so glad you decided to post a photo!! Looks lovely :)

"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." I think that this quote can be used in relationships, too, not just with children... if we constantly moan about our negative body image to our significant other, they're going to only hear that and not hear the compliments that we give them.

Anonymous said...

Pubs, you are BEAUTIFUL. And I love your fantastic mothering skills and Thing 2's wisdom. Let's hope it sticks with her as adolescence strikes!

Biz said...

What a wonderful post!! You do look beautiful!

And for the record, one of my boobs is bigger than the other too - so weird?!

E. Jane said...

I loved this post, and I think you look great. Body image has become such a huge commodity in our culture. Never have so many spent so much on trying to achieve the perfect look--even those who already have a very attractive, healthy body. I would just like to be at a healthy weight and free of serious medical issues. I believe that I am on the path to meeting that goal. Blogging has been very helpful in so many ways.

Also, thanks for checking in on my blog and leaving such a lovely, insightful post. I appreciate your honesty and clarity.

Charlotte said...

You look beautiful! I love it! But even more I love how well you listened to your daughter and how seriously you took her comments. it's too easy sometimes to brush off the little things our kids say but sometimes they can teach us so much!

PS> My son always asks me to cut his hair straight (it's super curly). I have to laugh and explain that that's not the way it works in reality, lol.

Jamee @ A New Kind of Normal said...

You look amazing & I love this post! The honesty of a 6 year old!

*Lissa* said...

Love, LOVE this post!! You are beautiful and congrats to you on not waiting one day longer to rock that bikini!

Kirsten said...

Your daughter is amazing and smart. Glad you listened to her!

Christy M. said...

YOU are rocking that bikini and you have inspired me to ROCK one, too. WHY WAIT ANY LONGER!!!!!! Life is too short, right?

I love that your daughter is so insightful. Reminds me of my son.

The Doll said...

You look amazing and you are setting such a great example for your little girl. I'm so proud of you.

Erin said...

i loved that post! thank you so much for sharing. you are beautiful, and i think you look fantastic in a bikini!!!

Trish said...

Omgosh this was so great, thank you so much for sharing! You are beautiful!

Mommy Mo said...

I loved reading this post- how insightful of your daughter and kudos to you for listening. I am so proud of you for donning that biking and exposing yourself to us- BRAVO! And can I just thank you for all the nice, wonderful comments you post on my blog and at dailymile? You are a true Sister!

MadScientist said...

I just found you Exposed post..I am SO sorry for not linking back earlier. For some reasons I didn't see it.

What an awesome story. I don't even have a bikini. You rock! keep up the amazing work, your kids are uber lucky!!!

Bari said...

I think you must have the smartest 6 year old on the planet because she sure taught mom a thing or two about loving your body! She is going to grow up to be one confident young lady with the wonderful example you are setting.

PS-you look great!

Foodie McBody said...

This is the best story ever. And I LOVE THING 2!!!!!!!!!! and I love the bikini and the pic and ALL OF IT. You rock! You are awesome!

april said...

Rock that bikini! You are fantastic!

Japple said...

Oh, this is such a great story! And sooo true about teaching kids in criticizing our own bodies. I remember so clearly my mother's negative words, without realising she was actually criticizing my body at the same time. Yay for your bikini!

Tiffany said...

How great to read your post! It is so amazing how our children reflect the things we need to be challenged in most and are little mirrors. What a powerful statement you made for your daughter! You are beautiful and it was wonderful to see a piece of your heart.

Josie @thestartingline said...


Will be back when I do.


Anonymous said...

Oh my word, I love that conversation you two had! AWESOME!!!

You look amazing! Great job!!

Josie @thestartingline said...

Ok, I think I can conjure up a coherent thought or two now. :) I loved this post. Everything from your conversations with the Things to the conversations with your husband to the picking one out to the scrunching it down below your belly button to the photo of you standing there looking so happy with your family. BEAUTIFUL. Love, love, love it. All of it.

AnnG said...

You look awesome! Isn't it the greatest when our kids will get us to do something that we never thought we could do for anyone else?? Very observant little girl you have there!!

Roo said...

You look great! And it amazes me the things that our kids notice. What a smart little girl you have there. :)

Kat said...

Awesome! You look great! And congrats on your tri. You are a great mom and role model for your daughter!

Fran said...


Great that you're joining the virtual run. I've added you to the list.

Of course you can use it in November.

I haven't got much time now but will get back to your blog later.

Sabrina said...

You look fantastic! Wonderful share, you rock in that bikini!

Angela said...

I think you rocked it!