being a mom

It’s Too Hot To Be Self-Conscious At The Pool

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body image issuesI hate swimsuit shopping. In the past, I haven’t done it at all, opting instead to head fully dressed to the splashpad/swimmin’ hole/public pool, allow the chlorinated water to splash all over my cheap jeans, and then smile bravely as the Texas sun dries the chemicals to my tender, transluscent skin.

I remember hearing about an ancient form of punishment where they would sew a criminal up in cowhide and put them on a donkey in the sun. As the cowhide dried, the person would be suffocated to death. That’s what it feels like to get Delia’s jeans chlorinated.

Still, for many years it seemed like that was a better option than showing up anywhere in a swimsuit, particularly a swimsuit that somehow managed to look better in the sickly, flickering light of a department store changing room.

Well, no more. I’m putting my cankle down because I realized two things over the past weekend:

One, it’s hot outside. Terribly hot. Like, sweat in weird places hot. Second, a cursory glance around my public pool made me realize that not only was I in good company–what with the tanned-to-a-crisp hairy men and aquacizing grannies–but with moms as far as the eye could see, of all shapes and sizes.

These moms were divided into two groups. No, not by water nymphs and plus-sized ladies, but by the women who looked like they were enjoying themselves, and the women who looked like they were in hell.

The ones enjoying themselves were in the water, with their kids and friends. They wore bikinis and one-pieces, tankinis and swimskirts. They were lithe and chubby, they were smooth skinned and stretch-marked.

All of the above descriptors can be assigned to the second group, too, only those women looked like they wanted to fold one of those weird strappy  pool chairs around themselves and disappear. I know that look. I’ve perfected that look.

This isn’t a statement on girl power or body acceptance (though I wish it was). Instead, it’s more about me being whiny and a little selfish. I want to play in the water. I want to teach my kid how to swim. I want to wear big sunglasses and ditch the jorts and t-shirt and be comfortable for five seconds before we have to walk home in the desert sun. I want to be as uncaring as those other ladies, who are laughing and have white stuff on their noses and whose kids don’t have to beg them to come play because the fear of someone seeing their dimpled thighs is too much to bear.

My bikini days are over. I’ll never feel comfortable in one again, and that’s just me. I am soft in places and have weird knee dimples and my boobs seem to grow larger every year. But my body is changing less rapidly than my daughter’s: her legs are getting longer and her head comes up to my chin now and in a year she won’t need glasses anymore and she is getting older every day.

I don’t pine after days long gone, but I don’t want to miss out on what is perhaps one of the last summers she’ll ever want to be seen with me at all–whether I’m a size two or size 20–so this year I’m sucking it up, stuffing the girls into support cups, and taking all of this glorious cellulite into the pee-filled summer pool. You should too.

Once you get used to the smell, it’s practically paradise.

(Image: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)