Yesterday I went to the beach for the first time this summer. I wore a bikini. I spent the first hour or so on the beach feeling self conscious of my body – my stomach not as flat and toned as I would like it to be, my legs not as lean as they have been in the past, a few extra pounds wobbling around here and there. At some point I made the decision to go into the 60° water. I stripped off my cover up and braved the cold water. I felt alive, invigorated, and a little frozen. (I will not be signing up for the Polar Bear Club…EVER.) I just finished the Chronology of Water, which left me compelled to swim in the ocean, to experience my body in water once again. Perhaps to connect with the words I had read, perhaps to connect with the woman who had written those words, perhaps to reconnect with my younger self, the girl who once spent long summer days in the ocean waters.
Once I got out of the water I didn’t care so much about what I did or didn’t look like in my bikini. I wouldn’t say I was confident, just indifferent. The sun warmed my cold skin, my friend and her daughter drew pictures in the wet sand with shells, and I briefly forgot how scantily clad my imperfect body was on the shoreline. My friend and her daughter had drawn a big sun in the wet sand and we decided to take pictures standing in the sun. During our picture taking session my friend decided to do handstands and headstands. I snapped a few divine shots of her upside down, the waves crashing in the background. I wanted my picture taken while in a headstand too. We were having fun frolicking on the shoreline, the sun shining down on us, the waves lapping at our feet. I decided to post one of the pictures of myself in a headstand on Facebook. Bathed in sunlight I couldn’t see the picture and all of its nitty gritty details, but it looked decent enough and the memory of the photo being taken brought me joy so I posted away for all to see.
Later that day, out of the sunlight, able to see with great clarity the pictures from the beach I cringed at the photo I had posted on Facebook and all of the other photos of me in a bathing suit. And then I paused. At 31 do I want to continue hating my body and only noticing all of its flaws? The answer is, no. Why was I spending so much time feeling self conscious and hating my body when it was the same body that built sandcastles, collected shells, lifted a squealing and giggling little girl in and out of the waves, went for a swim, and did a headstand? Shouldn’t I be rejoicing and giving thanks for all of the amazing things my body is able to do? And yet, it is hard to simply erase all the years of hating my body. I look back at pictures of myself ten years ago and regret not appreciating my body then. I do not want to be sitting here at 41, looking at the pictures from yesterday thinking, “Damn I wish I had appreciated my body back then.”
It is with trepidation, and lots of lingering self-doubt, that I include these photos. It is also with the hopes of slowing chipping away at the perfectly airbrushed bodies in bikinis we are bombarded with that I include a natural body. A body that does yoga, eats lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and also fully enjoys baked goods and chocolate without feeling guilty (most of the time).