Well, it’s that time of year again. Swimsuit season has rolled around. (And to be honest, so have those stubborn five extra pounds on my hips.) I swear, ladies, is there any other combination of words in the English language that can cause such fear, such a state of panic as the two little words “bathing suit”? And bikins? Forget it. Just hand me a mumu and let me be on my way. In a culture that is so body conscience, women spend ridiculous amounts of time and money preening and plucking, tweezing and…god knows what else. But what exactly are we trying to do? Look better? Feel better? Be able to walk down the beach and hope people think your sarong is a fashion statement instead of a desperate attempt to cover cellulite? I can’t help but wonder…who is all the effort for? Us? Or them?
Last summer I went on a cruise to the Bahamas with four girlfriends. We started planning the trip in January and with six months until we boarded the boat in June, we all went into insane workout mode. We joined gyms, did countless yoga, pilates and Zumba classes and seemingly lived off a diet of barley and water. I had had a one track mind and can only compare it to a horse with blinders on; the pounds just seemed to melt off. But there was just one problem. I was acting like a complete b*tch. Because I was freaking starving. One of the girls going on our trip was set to give birth two months before we left and I can promise you, I was NOT going to be bigger than the girl who just had a baby. I dropped 25 lbs in five months. I was teeny tiny and fit into clothes that had foreign sizes I had never seen before, sizes like 00. And yes, I’m tooting my own horn a little but we all looked great. Between the five us, we lost a total of over a 100 lbs. We were so proud of ourselves but it almost felt like a hollow victory. We had achieved what we set out to do but I for one wasn’t happy with the results. I had devoted all my time and energy into working on the outside and forgot to work on the inside as well. Nothing else mattered to me except going to the gym and stepping on the scale. It was a constant emotional battle; I would spend 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and burn the equivalent of an M&M. It was maddening. To be completely honest, I was happier with the 125 lbs version of me than the 100 lb version. My waist was smaller, yes, but so were my boobs, butt and somehow my personality shrank as well. Not only had I lost weight, I had lost me as well. All so I could look good in a bikini. It just wasn’t worth it.
I have a girlfriend who is easily one of the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen. She’s smart, funny, an amazing wife and mother and would give you the shirt off her back; she’s beautiful on the inside and out. But when asked what she looks like, most would describe her as having “a great personality.” Because my girlfriend weighs over 250 lbs. We’ve been friends since we were little kids and she’s always battled her weight. But a few years ago after the birth of her first child, she and I had a long conversation where she told me that she had a child that adored her, a husband that idolized her and friends and family that loved her, her weight just didn’t matter anymore. She was happy and you could see it on her face. She makes no apologies for her weight and is truly one of the happiest, most confident and content women I’ve ever met. She doesn’t let what other people think about her affect her or her lifestyle and I can only hope to one day be as confident as she is.
When I started dating again I jumped into a world of seemingly perfectly tanned and toned 20 year old girls without a stretch mark in sight. I immediately did what most women do post divorce and promptly joined a gym. Then about a year ago a plastic surgery boom seemed to hit and two of my girlfriends had boob jobs, one had liposuction and another had a tummy tuck. And dang it, if they didn’t look good. So I checked the balance on my credit card and made an appointment with a plastic surgeon. The idea of surgery scared me to death but my friends looked amazing, surely it was worth it. Then sitting there in that flimsy paper gown that I am convinced patients are forced to wear only to make the doctor feel superior, listening to this man tell me what was wrong with my body, I had an epiphany. (Or I just got really insulted One or the other.) This is my body and no, it’s not perfect, but it’s mine. Dang it, I’m proud of my stretch marks, they are a result of my body changing and growing, a result of bringing my daughter into this world. And quite frankly, I don’t know a woman alive who has taken her clothes off in front of a man and had him tell her to get dressed and go home because she has stretch marks, cellulite or her breasts weren’t perky enough.
Some girlfriends and I are taking our kiddos to Florida in a few weeks. I spent about five minutes looking at pictures of Victoria Secret models frolicking on the beach in teeny tiny bikinis before I said screw it and ordered a black one piece with a skirt from Land’s End. While that might be a smidge bit of an exaggeration I want to spend my time at the beach building sandcastles with Prinny, playing in the ocean and eating crab legs ‘til I pop. Not starving myself and missing out on the yummy goodness of drawn butter so I can strut down a beach in a bikini and have some self inflated sense of self worth. When it comes to my weight and my body, while I’ll never see 00 again, I’m healthy and happy. And that’s not for anyone else, it’s just for me.0