In My Own Skin: Bathing Suits and Body Image
Slipping the smooth fabric between my fingertips, I feel it fall against my skin. Hands to hips, I consciously leave it be.
The first hot day of summer is finally here, and I'm trying to decide how I like my new swimsuit. The colors, the fit, the feel. But one layer deeper, I guess I'm trying to decide how I feel about me.
Lashes raised, I peek into the mirror just one more time and see eyes that match my own — hazel and wide and fierce — watching me. My daughter.
“I'm trying on my new swimsuit…” I narrate to her in my mothering way. My voice is shaky, unsure. My point mirrors the feeling.
“You're so pretty,” my daughter says. Her voice is clear, her point is made.
I turn away from that mirror and slip my fingers through hers. We gather the rest of our five, and head to the pool.
Once there, our three jump into the water in the way that kids do. As if the cold kisses their skin rather than harshens it.
Jason and I walk in more tentatively and make our way to the edge. Once I feel cool water on warm hips, I lean my elbows against the concrete, slip my sunglasses on, and watch.
I see my children, of course, splashing unabashedly. Chin tipped to sky, mouth open wide, laughter filling the space between turquoise water and lemonade sunshine.
My husband by my side, one ankle crossed over the other, marathon training touching his face, his chest, his arms. He slides closer to me, his shoulders and thighs grazing mine.
A woman treads by us carefully. Her strong arms already golden, blond hair piled high on her head. She's wearing a black, ruffled bikini, framing a very pregnant body. She places her fingertips on that belly, protecting what's inside. She pauses as she passes us, eyes on our kids. Shoulders back, smile wide, hands splayed.
To my left, another mother holds a midnight-haired, diapered baby in a red sunhat on her shoulder. She murmurs in his ear and sways. His eyes close, his lips loosen around his pacifier. She turns. Her black curls graze a dragon tattoo on her bare back.
I’m lost in thought when cold water shocks my hair, my cheeks, my shoulders. I hear Jason gasp by my side and know he feels the same. We pivot toward each other and see our three standing behind us, pool toys in hand. Eyes lit, laughter contagious. They got us.
I meet Jason's eyes, and we join them in laughter and fun and together. Golden threads of summer weaving between us.
The women framing our space in the pool laugh, too.
Much like those mothers with their hands around full bellies and tiny babies, I'm grateful to be in my own skin in this moment. It's full in its own way, and for the first time in a long time, I realize that's OK. It tells my story.
In the eyes of my daughter, I'm so pretty.
In the eyes of these other mothers, I dive into moments with my children.
In the eyes of my husband, I'm gaze-worthy.
These are presents, each and every one of them.
But the most important gifts are the ones one I give myself.
In one hand, I'm not tugging or pulling or placing or really thinking about my swimsuit or my body. My own shoulders are back, my own smile is wide.
And in the other, I'm allowing myself one tiny moment to see myself in the way that others might. This is both lifting and freeing. When we loosen the claws of our own perceptions, what we see is light.