Swimsuit season is in full swing and, as usual, I find myself frowning at the mirror and realizing I have failed to achieve the fabulous bikini body I told myself I’d have this year. Every year I tell myself it will different next year.
This is the year I’m going to lose X pounds, grow six inches taller, and my boobs will magically return to their pre-baby glory. I’ll grow long and luxurious dark, wavy hair to replace all this baby fine yellow crap that grows out of my head, and I’ll go to sleep with this chubby freckled body one night and wake up with smooth golden skin, stretched taut over my sexy muscles and graceful curves. While I’m at it, I’ll go ahead and figure out a way to magically become 10 years younger overnight.
Somehow, every year, it never quite seems to go the way I plan. Maybe my fitness level improves a bit if I’m consistent with my workouts, or maybe I manage to get a really great haircut so the yellow crap looks a little less crappy, but for the most part, I pretty much just look like a slightly older version of me. I guess at some point one has to accept that we can’t all look like 20-year-old bikini models and, ya know, that’s really okay.
This past Friday I was playing on Facebook perusing all my friends’ 4th of July photos and I noticed something that made me feel kind of sad. As part of a story about how locals spent their holiday, al.com posted a photo of three attractive and buxom young ladies partially covered in rather small American flag print bikinis.
Of course there were all the expected “God bless America!” and “I’m at full salute, har har har” comments from random male scholars, but what troubled me were all the comments from female readers complaining about the image and even making nasty comments about the young ladies’ bodies and perceived lack of intelligence.
Some even went so far as to state they were “unliking” the page or even canceling their subscription to the Press-Register because they were so offended by the photograph of three women in bikinis. On a beach. In July.
Holy crap, ladies! It’s just a little human flesh. Why all the repulsion and horror? And why so much outrage when it’s so easy to just to click right on past and look elsewhere? The complainers denied accusations that they were jealous or felt threatened by the attractive young women, but it’s hard not to suspect at least some of the comments were motivated by personal insecurity.
As a woman and a feminist (whatever that means anymore), I really hate seeing women feel bad about themselves because their bodies don’t look the way they think they’re “supposed” to look, and I especially hate seeing women shame other women for the way they look. It’s just as ridiculous and disgusting is to hate on women who happen to meet society’s nearly impossible beauty standards as it is hate on women who don’t.
We waste so much time not only worrying what others will think of us, but also judging each other so harshly. Depending on the critic, it’s a crime to look great and dare to flaunt it just as much as it’s a crime to be less than perfect and dare to flaunt it. I just wish all women could feel comfortable in their own skin, covering it up or showing it off however they please (within reason, of course), and we could all celebrate the many different ways women can be beautiful.
It all sounds good on paper, but I know how easy it is to let self-doubt creep in and get sucked into thinking that we’re not good enough and feeling self-conscious. Just last week my family and I spent the day at the Gulf and I was sitting on the beach in my cover-up, watching my kids splash around in the waves.
It was a hot day and the water started looking pretty inviting after a while, but I had just finished chowing down at Moe’s and wasn’t exactly feeling my swimsuit best. I looked up at the bikini-clad teenagers throwing a Frisbee nearby, then down at my thighs and thought, “Nah. I’ll just sit here.”
Suddenly, from the stillness of the late afternoon emerged a rather unlikely beach-body hero. At my best guess she probably weighed 400 pounds, and I watched her self-consciously tug at her swimsuit for a bit as she stood near her towel and surveyed the scene. Finally she gave a little “eff it” shrug and went bounding off into the waves like a Baywatch babe.
Well, okay, it was probably more like three or four Baywatch babes stuck together, but what the hell? She wasn’t going to let it stop her from having a good time, and it obviously wasn’t an issue for her dreamy-eyed 130 pound boyfriend who grinned and chased her into the waves where they spent the next hour giggling and splashing each other.
I’m sure she’s not stupid, and she probably knew there were at least a few people staring and laughing. But I love that she wasn’t willing to let other people’s judgment ruin her day at the beach.
Now don’t get me wrong. In no way am I suggesting weighing 400 pounds should be a desirable goal for anyone. That can’t possibly be healthy, but her health choices are her business. We should all be striving to be the best we can, but none of us will ever be perfect. Be kind to yourself, and others, and screw all the body shame.
Life isn’t sitting around waiting for us to be thin enough or pretty enough or “whatever” enough. Life is happening right now, beckoning at us to get off the beach towel and come on in and play.
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