We recently went on a family vacation to the Wisconsin Dells and just before leaving, I started getting nervous. I, like many women, don't look upon the opportunity to wear a swim suit with enthusiasm and anticipation. Quite the opposite, I literally dread it. I start to imagine everyone looking at me and seeing all of the imperfections that I am well aware of; Lord knows I'm not perfect. But the reason that I was nervous wasn't because I had to wear a swim suit...
The day our Duo turned two, we planned a full day of fun with them which included a trip to our community pool. I spent 20 minutes before leaving over analyzing my swim suits and how I looked in them. I immediately zoned in on my less than perfect thighs, jiggly thighs, and under toned arms. I dreaded being at that pool, with my kids (and thin husband), putting my flaws on showcase.
When we arrived at the pool that day, two things happened. First, and obviously most importantly, the kids immediately ran to the water and beamed with joy to be there; they are total water babies! The happiness that they gave off filled me up so much that I started to forget about how I looked or who was noticing me and I became completely entranced in the sheer joy of my kids. Children have a way of involuntarily making us focus on the things in life that truly matter.
The second thing to happen that day was a startling realization regarding the other women around me at that pool; so many of them were wearing swim wear that covered less than my tankini was covering and they did not seem to care ONE BIT! They could have been masters of disguise, flaunting about exuding confidence, while deep down they were as uncomfortable as I was, but their demeanor told a very different story!
These women were choosing to embrace however they appeared in that moment because the moment was more important than the appearance. I saw women of all different shapes and sizes that day wearing less than I was and not seeming to be nearly as self conscious as I was and so I got to thinking...
When did we start putting so damn much pressure on women to be thin, in shape, "perfect"?! I felt an anger deep inside my stomach over how many women have wasted time in their lives over analyzing outfits, feeling insecure in social situations because of some stereotype over how she should look, or, worst of all, resorted to an eating disorder to change her image. Why does the appearance of a woman matter so much more than that of a man?
There has been a ton of hype recently over the "Dad Bod". Studies have recently shown that women much prefer the slightly more squishy look on a man than the chiseled, hard look. Hold on... How is it acceptable for a man to appear fluffed but a woman is judged for having a similar appearance? The most ridiculous part of this is that the woman actually CARRIES the child, forever altering her body, and the man...what...? What is his excuse? Don't get me wrong, I much prefer the dad bod over chiseled but this is a total double standard and absolute crap!
For thousands of years, a woman with curves and a fuller figure was the desired look. In the early ages it meant she came from a family that could afford to put food on the table. It also suggested she was built to reproduce. This preference held firm until the flapper era when women started to take on a more boyish appearance, donning a straight figure and shorter hair. I love the fuel behind this movement entirely; that women should be seen for more than growing a family. This was a time when the future of women began to shift as our ancestors fought for women's rights; a time when we truly gained power and opinion. It also brought on the shift in what was acceptable in the female figure and it brought on a social acceptance to put a lofty amount of pressure on women to look a certain way.
For over 110 years, women have been looked at under a microscope for flaws in their appearance. Too fat. Too thin. Too short. Too tall. No thigh gap. Too much thigh gap. So we all started comparing ourselves and allowing men and women alike to judge us based ONLY on appearance. We created a world that puts more pressure on a woman to be all the things we deem to be perfect. We created a world where women live to make others happy, where they seek the approval of others and find it almost impossible to see the good in themselves, inside and out. I don't know about you but I do not want to live in a world like that.
After we got the kids down the night of their birthday, I looked at my husband and said, "I think I'm going to wear a bikini again." And do you know what he said? "Good!" He said good. Because all these years of judgement, standards, stereotypes have put so much weight on us as women that we start to see flaws in ourselves that others either do not see or do not care about. So the reason I was nervous about our vacation was simply that for the first time in five years and for the first time since having my twins, I was going to bare my stomach at a pool and leave myself raw for judgement.
Do you know what happened? I wore that bikini with pride to the pool that day. And then I wore it again two days later. Do you know why? It felt freeing! Did I look perfect in it? Good Lord, no! Baring my stomach was like burning a bra, like giving a big middle finger to everyone who ever participated in building the mold that every woman felt she needed to fit into. That mold needs to be demolished! We live in a world that embraces difference more than it ever has; we each need to play a part in moving people to a place of acceptance, of unity, of love!
My stomach, the one that is no longer flat, that stomach carried and grew two humans at the same time. My less than perfect thighs that dance when I walk, they form the lap that my kids sit on for story time, snuggles, and comfort. My arms are far from toned but they clean the house my family lives in, make the meals that fuel them, and have the power to tell my kids that everything is right in the world with just one embrace. So am I physically perfect? Far from it. But I am learning to embrace who I am right now in life. And I embrace who you are too, lady. So wear the bikini. As far as I am concerned, the mom bod is beautiful and so are you!