For the past eight years I?have successfully navigated each summer without having to endure the humiliation that most women succumb to when squeezing into lycra instruments of torture.
Every summer department store dressing rooms across the nation echo with the disgruntled sighs of women trying on swimwear. Nothing can morph a women into an awkward adolescent like spandex and a full-length, three-sided mirror.
When temperatures get hot enough to make it impossible for me to continue to wear leggings and a long sweatshirt outside, I retreat inside to air-conditioned comfort and complain with the other misers how much I hate summer and look forward to winter.
In reality, summer has always been my favorite season of the year. But my spandex-induced anxiety tops the charts each summer, leaving me hating my body and refusing to enjoy any activity that requires wearing anything closely resembling spandex or swimwear.
My inner-body-bully tortures me day and night with cries of a bulging belly, flabby thighs and a sagging rear-end. Magazine images of gorgeous, twig-thin models sporting mere ribbons of fabric to pass as a swimsuit spur my inner-body bully on, and cause me much self-image distress.
Each attempt I’ve made this summer to purchase a new swimsuit leaves me crying in shame at a local Applebees, drowning my sorrows in a Perfect Margarita.
Armed with my sister and a coupon for a local department store, I decided one day recently that I wasn’t going to let air brushed beauties, scantly clad on magazine covers, make my inner-body-critic roll with hysterical laughter at each suit I?tried on.
“One or two piece?” my sister asks once we arrive at the swimsuits.
She begans thumbing through a section of yellow-polka-dot bikinis.
“I need something that’s a cross between a wonder bra and girdle,” I?tell her. “Something that will breath, shows hardly any skin, but will still feel cool.”?
“Don’t you think you would look a little ridiculous at the swimming pool with your kids wearing a wet suit?”?my sister asks sarcastically as she disappears into the dressing room with something that looks similar to a multi-colored rubber band.
She convinces me that the only way to get over my fear of spandex is to pick a suit that is suited to my current shape—which happens to be “mother of two”—and try it on. I wander around the selection for a few moments while my sister follows closely behind me.
“Am I?the only one in the whole universe who doesn’t feel comfortable in a two piece, but feels that I’m not quite ready for a swimsuit with a knee-length skirt?” I?complained bitterly on our search.
Finally I?find a one piece that I consider trying on. I first check the price tag and throw it back on the rack with sticker shock.
“But you have a coupon,”?my sister whines, starting to get impatient.
“Even with the coupon amount off, there is no way I?would ever get even close to $70 of use out of that suit,”?I told her.
She throws her yellow bikini back on the rack too.
Eventually I?find one that I feel I?could try on and live with if it fits my standards. She follows me into the dressing room as I begin the grueling task of getting into the thing. What seems like one hour and two hernias later, I was ready to look in the mirror.
“Maybe with a big hat, a cover-up and some sunglasses you could pull it off,” she said.
“I need a Perfect Margarita,”?I say in defeat.
A couple days later I was looking in the mirror with my current swimsuit on when my daughter walks in. As I gaze in the mirror at my post-partum, c-section tummy, and sagging skin where toned muscles used to be, my daughter pipes up.
“You look beautiful, Mom. When I?grow up, I?hope I?look just like you!”?
Tears came to my eyes. My daughter was staring intently at me in the mirror as if I should already know that. She doesn’t see my faults. My blemishes aren’t deformities to her.
They are birthmarks and victory scars of reproduction.
I still wasn’t instantly pleased with my spandex-clad self, but it made me realize that to silence my inner-critic, I?have to rely on my own self-image, not the media image of beauty with air brushed pictures of seemingly perfect superstars. When I’m at the pool with my children, I’m among other women who share my same victory battle scars and birthmarks.
It’s time I?learn to silence that inner- bully and rely on the fabric of my mind. Body image and beauty are in the eye of the beholder.