Ok, so I’m going to level with you here. An honest moment. One that I’ll pretend I feel good about posting, but will secretly wonder for the next few days who actually reads this and whether or not I should be embarrassed about it.
There are two things I’ve hated my entire life: math and the beach.
Both of them I view as complete time sucks, and both of them I look at as something that can be avoided 99% of the time. But! When that 1% rolls around, there is absolutely no getting out of it.
My disdain for the beach, is not one of those situations of unreasonable and unfounded cynicism. Coming from Southern California, this abnormality in personality is something that I have, on numerous occasions, had to defend and explain and I do, in fact, have in my back pocket a short list of topical complaints to spout off when the dreaded words “beach day” are suggested as an option of time spent.
1. It’s so hot.
2. Sand is so hot.
3. Laying out in the sun is boring.
4. Laying out in the sun is unhealthy.
5. Parking. What a nightmare, am I right?
And if these very logical and hardly arguable reasons don’t do the trick in convincing whatever second or third party that a day spent doing practically anything else is a better option, there’s always the hard, cold, avoidance tactic of plainly refusing to go. My friends love that.
What I rarely ever admit, though I’m sure is glaringly obvious to most, is the real reason that I’ve hated the beach since I can remember: Bathing Suits.
I have a very distinct memory as first grader, going to the beach with a friend my same age, and her telling me that I looked fat in my bathing suit. Looking back now, to think that the word “fat” was in the vocabulary of two girls that young when referring to body shapes and self image makes me sick and says much more about my little friend than it did me, but nevertheless, as ridiculous as it sounds, I just don’t think I was ever really able to shake that label: Fat in a Bathing Suit.
At every stage of my youth, the insecurities with my body remained and despite small steps and chapters of acceptance and understanding of my shape and it’s place next to the word beautiful, I’ve never been able to face down the bikini. It’s just there. All skimpy and tight. Squeezing the tops of my thighs into submission and being a totally lame and unsupportive friend to my bits and bobs that are typically on maj lockdown (translation: boobs errywherr). And I don’t like it. And it ruins my time at the beach. And I sit there, probably burning, wondering what my friends think, or what our complete stranger beach neighbors think, or heavens to Betsy– what if I run into someone, probably a boy I like, at the beach who isn’t quite my friend, but I know well enough to say hi, but they’re like, shocked at my shape– what will that hypothetical half friend/ half acquaintance/ probably a boy person think?!
I’ve been able to get off scot free for years now. I think the last time was at the beach was maybe freshman year of college and I haven’t missed it at all. Come to think of it, I can’t even begin to count how many events I’ve passed up throughout my entire life to avoid being in a bathing suit. But last Friday, like a snake in a bush, I heard those words:
“We should all go to the beach.”
There it was. Hanging. Like a noose. And this time there was no getting out. This Friday had already been reserved for days as “the last real weekend of college”– the one we’d agreed to all block off and spend together. So, I agreed to go. Begrudgingly. I figured, why not, Julia– this can be your one punch on the timecard for the next five years. But, I’ve spent the last week nervous and dreading today. Until something kind of funny happened. This past week, I’ve happened to read two separate and totally random pieces that are challenging me to truly, once and for all, rid myself of this body guilt and hiding and comparison and self-criticism that isn’t worth all of the effort. The first was an excerpt from Anne Lammott:
There’s a whole chapter on perfectionism in Bird by Bird, because it is the great enemy of the writer, and of life, our sweet messy beautiful screwed up human lives. It is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you’re an artist, it will destroy you….
…Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction—and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.
The whole excerpt is gorgeous to me, but when I read that one line about the pools and jiggly tummy’s, I had to read it four more times before I truly let myself believe that she was right. About bathing suits, but also about a million other things that are so worth doing, but require a potential of imperfectionism at some point.
“How to get a bikini body: Put your body in a bikini”
Ah-hah! Now there’s a trick! So simple, it’s almost like I could’ve been doing it the whole time. Oh wait– I could’ve been doing it the whole time! When I read that put in such simplistic and wonderfully obvious terms, I felt almost guilty for wasting so much time and energy on such a no brainer. Wear the freaking bathing suit. Just put it on your body. And then stop thinking about it!
For some reason, the combination of both of those articles just really stuck with me for the last few days. Unlike a lot of other advice on this topic this time of year, both of these added no pressure or a need to meet halfway with a justification for why I am the way I am or how I should just “accept my quirky body, but still find a way to look past it and enjoy my life.”
All this to say that this year, I’m taking myself, my new, adorable J. Crew bikini (purchased on Tuesday at 11:00 at night and overnight shipped to get here by beach day), my two obnoxious boobs, love handles and white-out colored upper thighs and I’m going to the beach with my friends, dammit! And I’m not promising that I’m going to love it. I standby all of my previous complaints with conviction and and certitude. (Because the beach still kind of sucks…) But I will promise to do my best to embrace what I got. Like a freaking Dove commercial.