By Marie Osborne
I’m definitely not at my thinnest this summer. I had twins 8 months ago, and I’m still carrying around significant postpartum pounds. I also happen to live in Southern California, the land of bikinis, beach days and barbeques. What’s a mom with her not-quite-beach-perfect-bod supposed to do during those sweltering, summer months?
Extra pounds and summer fun don’t really go together. After all, magazine covers and Pinterest boards have been advertising ways to “slim down by summer” for months now. Get your body bathing suit ready! What do I do if I’m not “bathing suit ready”? The options seem slim for the not-so-slim.
I remember in High School hearing boys cruelly talk about overweight girls who weren’t completely covered from head to toe. “UGH! Gross! Put that away! No one needs to see that!” Flash forward. I’m not exactly the same size or shape I was in high school. Those boys’ voices still echo in my head.
We, the not-the-size-we-once-were mamas, can still hear those voices. From jr. high, high school, college. From mean girls and mean boys, and sometimes, unfortunately, our own mothers or fathers. We hear these comments on magazines and TV shows. They instruct us on the appropriateness of appearing in public with anything less than a perfect beach body.
Yuck. Gross. Put that away, lady. No one needs to see your stretch marks or cellulite, your too-skinny bum or your too-flat chest, your postpartum pounds or pale winter skin.
These comments from my past imply that my imperfect appearance is somehow offensive to others. If my body isn’t slim or tan or firm or smooth or lean or perky, then I’m visually assaulting those around me with my less-than-perfect frame. No one should have to see anything less-than-perfect. I shouldn’t be so rude as to inflict my unappealing appearance on their beautiful beach day.
I’ve come to realize that much of my embarrassment stems from these comments. Comments that imply only tan, thin, curvy women have the right to wear bathing suits and enjoy summer activities with family and friends. The rest of us are relegated to remaining covered and sitting on the sidelines, saving others from the tragedy of beholding our imperfections in the light of the summer sun.
When it comes down to it, I’m forced to ask myself: Why am I at the beach in the first place? Or the splash pad? Or the pool? To have fun with those I love? Or to give others something sexy to look at? What is my contribution to beach day going to be? A fun-loving, joyful spirit? Or a smokin’ hot bod?
There’s a quote that I’ve seen floating around Facebook that has greatly impacted me. Eloquently put by Erin McKean:
“You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female."
I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T be pretty if you want to. (You don't owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy…”
I don’t owe prettiness to anyone. It’s fun to be pretty. I like being pretty. But. Pretty, sexy, hot. They all stand several rungs from happy. I can be fat and happy at the beach. I can also be fit and happy at the beach. I have been both. The point is it is my choice to be happy with myself and participate in my life at every size.
You know where I see the meaning of summer fun? It twinkles in my son’s eyes when I spin with him the sprinklers. When I sing at the top of my lungs while building san castles. When we run and splash and play at the park. When we lie around in our pajamas until noon snuggling on the couch, then have popsicles for dinner because it’s too hot to cook. When I’m engaging with him instead of worrying about how I look.
How he inhabits his body inspires me. The freedom he finds in it because it is strong and brings him joy. How he loves to spin and jump and run and splash. To him, his body is a tool for fully living, fully engaging, fully experiencing. His body has not been judged or picked at or taken apart by the eyes of others, or by his own eyes in the mirror. His body is perfect because he uses it to pursue, share, and spread joy.
As Beauty Redefined proclaims, “I am capable of much more than being hot.” I am capable of using this body, whatever my size or shape, to pursue, share, and spread joy. I’m not-so-slim this summer, but I am so very blessed. I have a million reasons to enjoy myself, and I don’t need a beach ready body to do it.
I’m not waiting to lose weight before I frolic in the sprinklers with my boy. I will not shy away from splashing in the waves because of my muffin top or belly pouch. I will not stop seeking and experiencing joyful memory-making moments because I look less-than-perfect.
Summer fun is not reserved for the young, tan, fit mom. It’s for every mom who’s playing in the sand, not thinking about how she looks while doing it. I don’t owe my kids a hot mom, but I do owe them a joyful one, every summer, no matter my size or shape.
Let’s do this, mamas. Let’s do THIS.
“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
At every size.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie on her blog encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.