How often do you walk around your house, lounge around, check your email, do your laundry or hang out with roommates or a significant other in nothing but your underwear or bathing suit? For myself I would say never. Until…. summer hits and you pretty much have no choice but to shed some layers, unless you have premium air conditioning and in that case you may even get so cold you have to put on a light sweater. The other day it was so hot, I decided to dust off my old bathing suit, and take it for a stroll around my apartment. First it was freeing! Liberating!
Breezy almost. But then I walked past a mirror and the examining started, the critiquing. The mean, evil voice inside you that tells you, you aren’t good enough, that says, “How dare you wear a bathing suit!” The voice that then makes you stare at your body in every mirror in the house, to see if maybe something may change. Maybe you’ll catch yourself in a different light or angle and see Charlize Theron or Michelle Rodriguez, or someone else who has a banging body that looks amazing in a bathing suit. But in every mirror I looked in, I did not see the body I wanted. I saw small boobs, an ok waist if I just stopped drinking beer, nice arms in the front, but the back of them needs some toning, a pretty good butt, but better if the back of the thighs weren’t so mushy, and pale, veiny legs that really should look more lean, considering all the walking I do here in New York City. I pretty much stood there and shamed my body in every mirror in the house. I couldn’t even enjoy my breezyness for two seconds!
I thought that in my 28 almost 29 years of life, that I had finally crushed that stupid, mean, bullying voice. I thought I had replaced it with one that was encouraging and loving, a voice that didn’t give any care to what it looked like in a bathing suit. A voice that has better things to do with its time. The voice that constantly reads, watches, and surrounds itself with so many empowering women who have encouraged it not to think that way. Lena Dunham, Cheryl Strayed, Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Jemima Kirke, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Aminatou Sow, Ann Friedman, Sadie Kurzban, my mom, my aunt, and many more. I felt like I was letting them down, with all my body judgment.
I have struggled, like most living, breathing women on this planet, with my weight. This bathing suit shaming day I had, reminded me of a time I was in a bathing suit in middle school. My school had taken an end of the year field trip to the water slides. But where was I while all the other kids were running around splashing each other with water and riding down chlorine filled tubes? I was stuck crippled, hiding in the bathroom ( a place where I usually hid when I didn’t want people to see me) terrified of people seeing me in my bathing suit. I was 12 years old!! 12! A 12 year old should not be worried about how they look in a bathing suit! They should be laughing, playing with friends and having the time of their life at the water slides.
It wasn’t till and encounter with Julia, a once best friend of mine who had grown apart from me after the word ‘popular’ had become such a big deal. Julia was popular, I was not. Julia saw me hiding in the bathroom and had decided to acknowledge my presence for once. She asked what was wrong. I told her I thought I was fat. She told me that I shouldn’t say that about myself and that I was definitely not fat, and that she would tell me if I was. She smiled and flipped her long, beautiful, popular hair, and went back to enjoying the slides. After that I looked in the mirror and started to see something different. I started to see the perfectly fine, able, 12 year old body that was “definitely not fat.” I let Julia’s words sink in. I started to feel confident. If Julia didn’t think I was fat, then all the other kids wouldn’t either. So I decided to tell the evil mean voice to shut up and take a hike. That I was going to go slide down those slides in my bathing suit and nothing could stop me!
And so I left the bathroom to join all my peers, and of course no one cared whatsoever about what I looked like in a bathing suit. They were all too busy enjoying themselves in the water and playing with their friends. So I joined in, and drowned that evil voice for the rest of the day. I wish that was the only story that I have to tell, but it’s not; I have plenty more. I am sure many people have stories about when they let their hateful, body shaming voice, stop them from doing something fun, or something that they love. But I am hoping that in the future we won’t have to add any more of those stories to the list. I believe the world is slowly becoming a kinder place when it comes to accepting all body types. It’s still not great, there are still plenty of magazines, news sites, shows, and even subway ads that stick to this ridiculous beauty standard. Recently there’s been a subway ad up from Protein World asking people if they are beach body ready? And there is a picture of a very thin, Photoshopped model in her bikini.
Usually I would look at something like that and it wouldn’t phase me; it’s the norm, but not anymore. I refuse to let that be the norm, because it isn’t. There are plenty of companies and people that you can research that are helping stop make images like the Protein World ad. Here is a list of the ones I know: Miss Representation, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Luisa Omielan, Girl Be Heard, This Girl Can, 305 Fitness, Realize Your Beauty, BGM Models, Beautiful.army, The Anti-Diet Project, and I Woke Up Like This. I am sure there are plenty more where that came from, and I would love to hear about them.
As the rest of the summer progresses, my goal is not to shame my body anymore. I don’t want to wear pants when its 80 degrees and sweltering out because I think my legs look fat in shorts. I don’t want to hide my body from the world in fear of judgment. I want to love my bathing suit body! I try to keep active and go to my 305 fitness class once a week, drink lots of water, and eat healthy. But I also like to enjoy cold beer, BBQ, and banana cream pies in the summer. I will not let my mean, critiquing voice, stop me from doing that. I hope you won’t let yours either! And P.S. the banana cream pie from Pies and Thighs in Williamsburg is to die for!