Text from Ves: You guys coming over for a swim today? We can bbq.
Me (to nobody): *Excited squeal*
Also me: Mentally cancels previous plans to run errands and organize my closet. Sends Sayo a text to say (all casual-like) “Oh Ves just asked if we wanted to come for bbq and a swim” along with the guilty face emoji (because the night before I told him about my plans to stay home and get things done!).
Sayo: Yeah, we can go if u like.
Me (to Ves): Yes please! So excited; going to look for my swimsuit now.
I located the plastic tub holding some of my summer clothing, including three swimsuits that I hadn’t worn in at least five years, packed a bag with towels and other necessities, and went out to run some of my errands, making sure I was home when Sayo got back from work. He laughed when he saw me and said that I must be excited about this pool party because I was home (normally I’m gone for hours). The poor guy was exhausted but I convinced him to help me pick which swimsuit to wear.
Once we got to Rich and Ves’s house, I didn’t waste time getting into the beautiful pool. I love the water and even though I can’t swim, I love being in the water; something about it (I think it’s the ability to float) makes me feel feminine (a fresh manicure also does this for me). The weather was warm and so welcome after what felt like the longest winter.
After floating around for a while, glass of zinfandel in hand, I ditched my empty glass to play in the water. I ventured into the deep end where I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool, but held tight to the edge of the pool the whole time—when I got scared, Ves towed me to safety. I love the water but I have a healthy fear of it! Sayo is a fellow non-swimmer so he observed for a while before joining us (on a cute note, he calls a swimsuit a swimming kit—I’m a fan of the British influence!).
The pictures don’t lie: I had a wonderful time and look forward to going in the water again, whether in my friends’ pool or elsewhere. What the pictures don’t show is how I felt about my body in a bathing suit before we left our house. As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t worn a swimsuit in a long time (over seven years, now that I think about it) and as much as I’d like to believe that I’ve stayed the same size in that time, the bathing suit does not lie. It’s easy for negative thoughts to take over when something that used to fit looks bad. The first swimsuit that I tried on gave me the effect of having two extra breasts—the ones that were coming out of my armpits!—and it showed off lots of back fat. The second swimsuit had better coverage but was a bit snug on top. The third suit was the best of the bunch: it had the most coverage and was the most flattering (a term I use loosely).
There was a moment after I stepped into the first swimsuit that I said out loud, “I can’t wear a swimsuit”, and after trying on the second suit I considered wearing a t-shirt over it. Even after I settled on the third swimsuit as the best option, my attention turned from covering up my upper body to covering up my legs: I wondered if I still had the men’s swim shorts from 10+ years ago to cover my upper thighs (and if they’d still fit)!
With me, body image issues come and go. Sometimes I’ll think I look cute and ask Sayo to take pictures of me, only to be disappointed and delete the pictures when I don’t look as cute as I imagined. My arms and stomach are large and wobbly, and everything I have learned as a citizen of this world tells me that these are unappealing features. But…you can be uncomfortable with your weight (or other aspect of your appearance) and not let it stop you from doing things that you want to do. Sitting in airplane seats, climbing the narrow and numerous steps at various sites and in the subway (Bonjour, Paris!), and running to catch a bus would all be easier in a lighter body, but I’m not willing to put my life on hold before doing these things. In my last year of high school, I learned the hard way (I finally got a candid picture in the yearbook!) that if you’re fat, wearing baggy clothing makes you look fatter; since then, I avoid baggy clothing. In the end, I wore my swimsuit as-is, almost as an act of defiance (against society, maybe?) and I didn’t think about how my body looked again until I saw the pictures and videos.
Long before I met Sayo, I had decided that whoever I would spend my life with would have to accept my body as-is because I refuse to deal with someone else’s issues with my body, in addition to my own issues! I can’t imagine that situation: it’s one thing for me to ask someone to hold me accountable for my food and physical activity decisions, but it’s another thing entirely for someone to impose their body wishes on me (even if it’s for my own good—I’m an adult and no one can make me get fit but me). I was adamant that anyone who dated or married me had to assume I would never change (translation: get slimmer) and if he knew that he couldn’t deal with that, he was to get out of my life. God provided me with a husband who has told me (without prompting!) that he loves the parts of me that I would never expect him (or any man) to specifically single out (hiya, back fat!). To each his own, right? I say that, but I kind of think he’s lying, and it bothers him that I’d think he would lie about that.
As I get older, I’m more at peace with my physical appearance. Being at peace doesn’t mean I’m happy with every aspect of my body; to me it means I can have kind and loving thoughts about my body, even if I want it to look different. I can focus on what it allows me to do rather than feeling bad because it doesn’t look a certain way. If I do lose weight, I want my primary motivation to be health.
I don’t start each day by kissing my reflection in the mirror, but I know and believe that my value as a human being doesn’t fluctuate with my weight—I’m always valuable, and you are too! Even though I can point out my flaws in a heartbeat, guess what? When I first looked at the pictures and videos from last weekend, the first thing that I saw were my big smiles and evidence that I was having a good time. That’s a win.
How would you evaluate your body acceptance and body image?