This body of mine has grown and stretched big to make room for these babies of ours. This body has proven its strength, its gentleness, its wild intensity, its resourcefulness as it carries me through each and every day. It has taken care of me and taken care of us and has not let me down, not a single time.
Yet I sometimes have hang-ups about this body, as most women do. As the years pass, our bodies change, holding on to more weight and more curves and more marks of the years and the stress and the transformations that must occur.
In a moment of curiosity, a moment of desperation, really, I try on an old favorite pair of jeans, just to see. I’m in a good place, I tell myself, I can handle whatever happens, I say. And I get the pants up, but barely, the zipper nowhere near closing.
Quickly, I shimmy the pants off but he catches me and meets my dejected glance with a smile. Tears spring to my eyes, an intruder.
He looks at me and he says You are more beautiful today than when we first met. And I smile and sort of roll my eyes. Believe it, he says, if your body is this way for the rest of time, you are perfect.
I sit there, battling what I hear him say and what I hear my mind say.
So fickle, my mind. So callous, my thoughts can be.
But he says it with such conviction that I am forced to believe him. He says it with such unabashed, absolute, pure confidence in my worth and my value and yes- even my beauty, that little by little, a thought at a time, really, I begin to believe that I too, am beautiful.
I wonder when we begin to believe that our worth and our beauty are so directly linked to the mirror, so directly linked to the number on our pants, so directly linked to whether we are sagging or not, toned or not, if we measure up or not.
Why do we let our bodies carry babies and groceries and light sabers and laundry and boxes up the stairs but we also let them carry such shame? How do we hold weights and crockpots full of soup and dreams for our future and laugh lines across our eyes and also hold onto such disappointment about the body that holds it all?
I’ve been watching a slow rising, a quiet rebellion against these beliefs. I see them at the pool, at the beach, in pictures, everywhere.
I see 20-somethings and 30-somethings and 40-somethings and beautiful and curvy and real women wearing bikinis, fighting against cultural lies one swimsuit at a time. There’s no makeup, no embarrassment, no shame. No perfect hair, no perfectly toned physiques, no guilt. Women wearing ball caps, showing a c-section scar, showing the marks of babies, strong thighs playing in the sand, laughing.
There’s women rejoicing, finding joy in their life and pride in their body.
Because really, this isn’t about the bikinis; they simply represent freedom to me. More, it’s about seeing our body not as nemesis but as ours. They’re not something to battle and control and wage war against until the victory comes and we finally, finally look the way we wish we would. It’s about seeing our body as ally, offering itself up time and time and time again to do what we ask as we run and jump and get the dish from the top shelf and dive into the water as we splash with our girlfriends at the beach.
It’s about believing ourselves to be strong and fierce and deserving to wear a swimsuit in public because we are not going to miss out on our right-now moments with our right-now people.
It’s about the peace and the joy that comes when we embrace who we are and how our body looks with the wild abandon that can only come when we silence shame.
It’s refusing to let insecurity win and sideline us from life. See, it’s possible to make the choice right here and right now that we’re not going to let shame or self-consciousness or longings for different cause us to miss out.
Let’s put on those swimsuits or bikinis or swim skirts or mumu’s or whatever it is that allows us to live wild and free. Let’s love ourselves just as we are, not as we wish we were, because that is the sexiest thing we could ever put on.
Haven’t we learned by now that beautiful isn’t narrow thighs and tight tummies? Beautiful is the woman who splashes in the water with her children, who flings off the cover-up to dash into the waves, who uses her muscles and spends her energy actually living.
Beautiful is the woman who knows who she is.
See, I see these women wear bikinis in complete freedom and I believe I can do it too. As we witness her live with such joy, such reckless abandon, comfortable in her own skin, sure of her identity and worth and value and dignity and confidence to do her thing, it makes me believe that I, too, can rock that swimsuit and live free.
See, we are each other’s, this body and I, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
So let’s live.