Summer is in full swing. It’s an election year and the internet and world are busy being scary places. I needed to focus on something lighter for just a minute. I was checking out Buzzfeed, which is one of my favorite downtime sites to visit. I came across this video of a plus size woman wearing a bikini in public for the first time. I could so intimately relate to her story. This was also my experience a few years ago.
I was not always the size I am now. I’m currently floating somewhere around a 16. In my 20’s I hung around a size 8 and was very happy with my thick, muscular thighs, gorgeous hamstrings and nice firm butt and full perky breasts. I liked looking in the mirror and felt pretty and sexy. I excitedly had my first child at age 20 and gained over 65lbs. 3 years later the weight was off but my stomach was full of stretch marks and I was preparing to have child number 2. I stayed active throughout that pregnancy gained a scant 30lbs and dropped the weight right away. I trotted through the next few years of my life working out and looking great but still not feeling my worth.
Fast forward through one deeply depressing divorce, a cross country move and second marriage and 3rd child. This time I’m over 30, working myself into a deep a depression in an unhappy marriage that would last 10 more years. Let’s just say the weight didn’t exactly “fall off” it kinda settle in. Settled in to my hips, my stomach, my psyche. I felt the emotional and physical weight of my size. I still had a pretty face but I definitely played that down. I was “pretty for a fat girl”. I even used to say that I was happy I had big boobs because then no one would notice the train wreck happening from the boobs down. Yup, my self talk was really not positive.
Fast forward again this time to age 39. I’m fast approaching the cloak of invisibility. You know, that place in the media where women over age 40 go to act like we don’t exist so the hot 20 somethings can have the spotlight. I hated my body. I was to scared to even wear shorts and a bikini at the beach, pool or anywhere other than my back yard where NO ONE would see me was not happening. I told myself I was to fat, to pale, to riddled with stretch marks, to old, to, to, to….
Ironically I had opened my boudoir photography studio years before this time and I would talk with my clients about the importance of being confident but I myself wouldn’t, couldn’t allow myself the simple pleasure of wearing a certain article of clothing in public. How was that supposed to work? I would tell everyone who did a session with me that the number one thing to consider when selecting your wardrobe is “do you FEEL confident in it? If yes then bring it”. Yet I was to afraid of the potential criticisms from strangers to rock a bikini at the beach. I hated looking in the mirror and seeing my awful tan lines from wearing a one piece. Still I let my negative self talk win. The tan lines exaggerated the paleness of my stomach, which I referred to as being “spring roll” pale, you know when your skin is so pale you’re practically see through.
Then one summer day, after much personal coaching, fighting with the mirror and talking to myself lovingly, as I would to one of my clients. I risked it. I decided to walk with that fear and try it anyhow. I thought what have I got to lose? I’m not at this beach to impress a single soul. I’m here to have fun in the water with my kids and to absorb some vitamin D. I was 39 years old. I had waited over 15 years to wear a bikini in public for fear that someone would shout out a “where’s the harpoon” type of comment (Yes my self esteem told me that might actually happen). Guess what. NO ONE DID. Not one soul on that beach gave one vocal shit that I was there in my mismatched bikini, pale, to old and to full of scars.
I scanned the beach for kindred spirits, because that’s what us ladies do as we’ve been trained to seek permission to exist as our authentic selves. For the first time I really noticed all of the older women, the chubby women, the women with stretchmarks and surgery scars that were not hiding under towels and skirted, extra long tankinis. They were enjoying the beach how they felt comfortable doing so. I was so happy for them and for myself for finally letting go of that last fuck and enjoying the beach how I wanted to. I realized all this time I’d been denying myself the basic comfort of wearing a bikini, a simple comfort when you think about it, all because I let my negative self talk I’d been harboring about my body win. I left fear of judgement win. I let self hatred win.
Now, well now I’m pushing 43, divorced again, no additional kids. I haven’t found a cure for stretch marks and I haven’t really lost a significant portion of weight. I wear a bikini every time I go swimming. I own several in fact. I love them and I don’t see ever going back to a one piece unless I start swimming laps again. I don’t get super tan, nor do I advocate that, but my tan lines almost match my bra and panty lines and that feels good to me. I’m still not 100% comfortable in my own skin but I’m working on it. I don’t hate myself anymore. I’m grateful to my body for carrying me through the world. I like ice cream and pizza and I hate running, so there we are. I can relate to this video so personally and I love seeing her own her bikini too. We all have fear (hell I’m actually a little afraid to publish this). We all have a soundtrack in our head telling us our worth. Ask yourself, does yours really speak the truth? Mine often does not. It tells me I’m not worthy when my heart knows I have huge value. It tells me that I can’t, when my heart knows dam well I can and will. It tells me that I shouldn’t, when my heart tells me to follow my joy. Sometimes I sit in my fear. Sometimes it wins. Those times have become less and less frequent as I am learning to love and care for myself as I would a dear friend. When your soundtrack gets down or negative what do you do to change it up? How do you show yourself love and kindness?
I’m no Ashley Graham (hello hottie) but I am Ginger Curry-Richmond and for today, I am enough.