Last weekend was a scorcher here in Los Angeles. It felt like the surface of the sun (the sun is 109 F, right?) So, to escape the heat my fella and I headed to the beach with some friends.
We claimed our spot on the sand and then I went to wade in the water. It felt absolutely wonderful, and I stood there gazing out at the waves feeling grateful. Brian came up behind me, slipped his arms around me and said, "You look good. I like that swim suit." I beamed a smile ear to ear, not for the compliment, which was nice, but because I felt good in that swim suit. Let me back up...
Earlier that morning I was not at all happy about that suit. I hated that suit, but after fishing through my swim attire and finding my favorite suit stained and the elastic in my back up suit so weak I’d be mooning the whole beach, I was left with no other option but the blue suit.
That blue suit was only ever meant to be worn once. You see, we were in Boston, in November, staying in a hotel for Brian's brother's wedding. There was a hot tub that we wanted to enjoy, but I had forgotten to pack a suit (because it was Boston, in November). So, we went to a nearby TJ Maxx to see what we could find. The swim suit pickings were extremely slim (because it was Boston, in November...). In fact, they had exactly one swim suit available, sadly tucked away on a back rack of the clearance section. Fingers crossed, I tried it on.
It fit... but I would never buy it on any other day. The bottoms, while the right size, were more "skimpy" than I'm usually comfortable with. But it was the top that I liked the least. It was a tight, tube top number, the kind I always avoid because I thought that type was extremely unflattering on me. While most of my life I have escaped the (unfortunately) almost universal western woman insecurity about my weight, in it's place I was given the insecurity of, well, almost everything else about my body, but particularly my chest. I'm a small breasted gal, and ever since I was 13 when all my friends started becoming budding young women, I hated that I was left an non-budding tom boy. I crossed my fingers for years hoping I was one of those late bloomers, but when blooming didn't really happen by the time I was in college, I decided to do the only reasonable thing. Fake it.
Padded bras were my best friend. And oh my gosh do you remember water bras?! I should have bought stock in the company that came up with those. (In hindsight, what a ridiculous idea. It was like wearing two tiny waterbeds on your chest.)
I could feel ok about myself overall - but a day never went by without a little monster, the beast, on my shoulder whispering in my ear, "you'd look prettier if...", "you'd look better if...", "boys would like you more if..." A hundred different things would follow that if, but mostly it was about my lack of lady lumps.
In the TJ Maxx dressing room I was wearing the opposite of what I usually buy for swim attire. Rather than adding some definition and padding, this suit basically smooshed my little tattas even flatter against my chest and emphasized my ruler like figure. This admittedly bothered me - but the suit was only $10, and the only time I ever planned to wear it was in the hotel hot tub for maybe 30 minutes.
"Oh well," I thought, "I'll just wrap a towel around me from the room to the tub and back again. No problem." When we got back to LA from the wedding, the suit was stuffed in the back of a drawer and practically forgotten.
Until beach day with no other suit option. Reluctantly I put it on and turned to face the mirror, expecting the beast to pipe up with criticism and disappointment. But something else happened instead. I saw my smiling self. I didn't think the suit looked good, or bad, I just saw a happy lady, excited to go to the beach and spend time with her man and her friends. What I saw was a woman who finally recognized the accomplishment that she had been reaching toward for years. I had been yearning to love and appreciate my body, rather than criticize and shame it, to see it as a vessel for joy and happiness and adventure, rather than something that was wrong and needed improvement.
This was just a body in a swim suit.
I felt free from myself. The little beast on my shoulder not only stopped nagging me, it was gone. In its place was just me. I looked at my body in the mirror and said, "boobies, I love you when you're padded up, and when you're smooshed down. Tummy, I like you when you're poochy, and when you're a six pack. Buns, I like you when you've got squishy cellulite wrinkles, and when you're made of steel. Arms, I like you when you're buff, and when you've got that weird bottom waddle thing."
There is no "best" version of myself - and there is no best version of you. There is just you and how you talk to yourself. There is just you and how you relate to yourself. There is no one else's opinion, there is only yours.
I rocked that suit and I felt great in it. It's wonderful my man liked it, but that was irrelevant. Someone could have come right up to me and said, "that is a really unflattering suit," and I would have just smiled whole heartedly. That is now my favorite suit, because that suit proved that me and my boobies beat the beast.