With the last breath in my uncomfortably exposed bosom, I agree wholeheartedly with every last word in this essay from a few years ago in the Huffington Post:
Moms, Put on That Swimsuit. The writer (who, in the picture, is not at all fat! But she feels like she is, and that’s what counts) says:
I refuse to miss my children’s high-pitched, pool-induced giggles because of my insecurities.
I refuse to let other women’s judging eyes at the pool prevent me from exposing my kids’ eyes to the wonder of the sun glittering on the water.
I refuse to let my self-image influence my children’s.
I refuse to sacrifice memories with my children because of a soft tummy.
I want them to remember twirling in the water with their mom.
I want them to remember splash fights together.
I want them to remember jumping off the edge of the pool into my arms.
I want them to remember that their mom was there, with them.
This attitude resonates with me so much more than all those body positive slogans shrieking: “YES! YOU DEFINITELY HAVE A BIKINI BODY! ADORE YOUR BODY, NO MATTER WHAT! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY WOMAN NOT TO BE BEAUTIFUL!”
As one of my friends pointed out, kids actually do kind of notice if you’re fat. They just don’t care, because you are at the beach and the beach is supposed to be fun. So, whatcha gonna do?
More than once last year, I just felt too damn fat to put on a bathing suit. Just couldn’t do it. So I would moodily schlep to the pond, and the kids would beg me to take them in the water and do that swooshing thing, or catch them when they jump off the big rock — and I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a suit on.
They were crushed. It didn’t make any sense to them. Why would you not wear your swimsuit to the beach?
And they were right. Yeah, there are skinny, perky teenagers at the beach. Yeah, there are other moms who are frolicking around with their kids, and they’re wearing the same size bikinis as their toddlers. Not even with stretch marks! How do they even do that? And here I am, weighing more than I did when I was nine months pregnant with the youngest kid, who is now a toddler. How did I even do that?
More to the point, who cares?
This year my motto is: Feel fat? Hide in the water. Unlike when you’re lurking unhappily on the sand, no one will see you, and you can feel light and graceful for once. Why would you deny yourself that?
If you insist on wondering what other people think about how you look, just enjoy feeling gracious and generous about how skinny they feel when they behold the massive twin craters you left behind in the sand when you struggled to your feet to join the cannonball contest. What a nice person you are! You just made their day so much better, bless their size 4 hearts.
But seriously. It’s not about making excuses for not being healthy. It’s not about being mediocre. It’s not about body positivity or normalizing obesity. It’s about letting the beach do what it’s designed to do: reminding you that there’s something bigger than you.
Sitting on the sand getting gritty and trying to tug your shorts and tank top over your flabby bits while the kids beg you to jump in? That is a great way to have a lousy afternoon. If you want to be attractive, have fun. Laugh and be happy. That’s attractive, even when you’re fat.
[A version of this post first appeared in 2014]