Once upon a time I was a new mother. It was before body positivity, before athletes and models came in all shapes and sizes (though I admit we still have a long way to go) and her fabulousness, Lizzo.
I discovered an essay that I wrote for the Allentown Morning Call many, many years ago while decluttering and cleaning out old papers. Something many of us are doing during this extended time at home.
I still find it funny and positive. I hope you do as well. Plus, you know, beaches (sigh).
My Last Bikini
The last bikini swimsuit I owned was light blue, denimlike and came with a matching sleeveless cover-up. It was attractive, stylish and quite revealing. It was downright chic. I was 12. It was the year before I “filled out” and the last time I would have been caught dead baring much of anything to the world.
What caused me to remember this barely-there bit of clothing and pre-adolescence was a recent vacation at the New Jersey shore.
Although I grew up in Pennsylvania and within easy driving distance of the shore, I had only been there once before. My husband, who likes the ocean enough, would really rather spend his vacation walking through some cool and verdant woodland, rather than washing sand out of his swimming trunks. He usually wins the vacation battles, but this time, armed with a squirming, water-and-sand-loving 1-year-old daughter, I convinced him the beach was where we needed to be.
What I didn’t realize is that people on the Jersey Shore, for the most part, spend a lot of time there. As a result, I was surrounded by tan, beautiful people with leisure time and disposable income (most of which seemed to have spent in the gym). Every woman who walked past us wore a bikini, and much to my dismay, looked good.
“I had a baby last year,” I comforted myself and announced to my husband who was dealing with his own pallor and office-guy paunch.
“Yeah, and your point?” was his reply as trim 20-somethings sauntered by and he sat up as straight as his beach chair would allow.
Meanwhile, my daughter raced down the beach to where she spotted another 1-year-old playing in the sand. She immediately made herself at home with his toys and sand pile. When I turned to introduce myself to his mother and apologize for my daughter making off with his pail and shovel, all my self comforting was shot. Here was a woman who “had a baby last year” wearing an attractive two-piece bathing suit, baring a flat tummy to the world with no stretch marks to be seen.
Two things could have happened here. I could have spent the rest of the vacation not enjoying the surf, not enjoying the food, and jogging from sunrise to sunset so that next year I would a chance of being slim, trim, and worthy to lie around trying to be all, “Who me? I never exercise.”
Or I could accept myself, not worry about it and have a good time. So I, with my hand extended in greeting to this new mother wearing a bikini, decided to accept myself even if that self were a little dumpy.
I will be pale and a little flabby. I will buy nice one-piece swimsuits that keep everything in its place for the rest of my life. I will protect my skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. I will not compare myself with other who may look healthy now, but will be wrinkled, skinny (and might I mention miserable) old women. I, instead, will fondly remember that light blue bikini I wore by the lake when I was 12. I will store it away with the remains of summer camp and school vacations—and not look back.