The fam and I made our annual trek to the beach last week, and the weather, unlike last year’s chilly and windy BS, was glorious. The kids had a blast splashing in the surf, digging to China, and eating snacks covered in sand. The grown-ups enjoyed a few too many adult beverages and laughed until our sides hurt. One of us may have taken a little nap face down in her beach blanket, but there are no pictures to prove it.
When I wasn’t taste-testing my brother’s newest cocktail concoction (rainbow sherbet vodka, I’m not kidding), I was people-watching. I observed the parents who were flustered, running after their toddlers; the toddlers who were flustered, running from their parents. But mostly, I kept my eye on these sexy mamas who looked like they owned the place. They strutted around in their bright-colored two-pieces, sly smiles on their faces, hair pulled back in a messy saltwater bun. They were like celebrities, only better because they weren’t assholes.
I couldn’t stop staring at these ladies. Not because they had legs for days or abs of steel; these women actually looked a lot like me: soft bellies and a jiggle to their wiggle. They wore their stretch marks proudly, didn’t flinch from the camera or spend the next 15 minutes on their iPhone furiously cropping out their behind from the photo. As I watched these women with the stalker-ish abilities afforded only by my dark sunglasses, I noticed it wasn’t the cut of their suit or the color of the cover-up that made them so appealing; it was their confidence and it looked damn good.
Try as I might, I can’t find a store where they sell that stuff. I’ve browsed the petite section at various department stores where I used to buy a lot of my work clothes, but no dice. Silly me thought a younger, hipper store might have it in stock, but American Eagle and H&M were all out, too. So where in the world were those beach babes finding this elusive confidence?
I’ve always had a hard time looking at my body in a positive light. I think it started when I was in elementary school and a competitive gymnast. I had muscles while the other girls my age had skin and bones. Once, at a picnic with my best friend’s family, her cousin started calling me fat. She commented on my thighs in particular, said they were as big as tree trunks. My best friend, that turncoat, giggled along with the rest of the girls. I felt the tears stinging my eyes, but I refused to let them see me cry. I wandered off by myself and sat on a grassy patch underneath an ancient oak tree whose trunk rivaled my thighs, and bawled.
I’ll never forget how I sobbed that day, or how I had to gulp for air to catch my breath, my face puffy and swollen with tears and shame. I had never been called fat before that day, but I have believed it every day after. I went home and began to scrutinize every inch of my body. And I haven’t stopped.
Maybe that’s why pregnancy agrees with me so much; there’s no focus on “fat,” only on baby. Now that my body is no longer growing humans, I’ve begun the self-deprecating scrutiny again.
Then I look at the moms on the beach who have the same post-baby bodies as I, but they’re not wrapping themselves in a towel, all self-conscious about their protruding pouches. They’re running and playing and actually enjoying themselves, free from self-restraint wreaked from incessant insecurities. I want to do that. I want to be those ladies. How do I do that?
Being confident in my body, especially my forever changed post-baby body, will take time and effort, but I’m really going to try. If only to have another mother at the beach look at me from behind her dark shades and think, “Wow, she’s really comfortable in her skin, and I want to be, too.” Paying it forward, one jiggly ass cheek at a time, that’s just how I roll.
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