Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When the Beach Isn't Flattering to Your Body

It’s all too easy for women like me to sit underneath the tent or giant umbrella stuck in the sand and just wave to my family having the time of their lives out in the waves.  It's even easier to simply hide behind the camera and stand beneath some amorphous, flowing cover-up that swirls sexily in the wind, hides a plethora of sins, and (once again) keeps me firmly on that shore.

I'm not a size six.  Nope.  

That era of my life ended when my body carried 11+ pounds of twins inside a belly stretched too far to shrink back afterwards...except for maybe with some pretty expensive cosmological nips and tucks that will never find their way into our always stretched budget.

The women in my family fight their weight from before the time their faces develop acne.   Slow metabolism.  A fat gene kicked into overdrive.  Something keeps my family tree from producing waif-thin runway models.  We're not "skinny fat," either, you know, the kind who empty pure poison into their bodies, never break a sweat, yet never gain an ounce.

I eat healthily.  I exercise daily.  Cardio and sweat, that's me.  But my nearing-forty body is never going to be the body it was before I gave birth to twins.  I'd love for it to be, but it just isn't.  

So, I deal with my figure as best as I can.  I wear outfits that make me feel beautiful.  I listen to my husband's compliments.  I read Scripture about how I am wonderfully made and beautifully crafted by the Creator of the universe.  I also pray for God to help me--with my negative body image, with my weight, with my health.

And then my children ask me to do the one thing I don't want to do--go to the beach.  No, not visit the beach.  Go to the beach.

Play at the beach.

Swim at the beach.

Spend a day at the beach....

In a swimsuit

In the water.  

With the stretchy material pulled taught around one's body, there is simply no denying what you look like.  There are no ruffles, long lines, or belts to distract, no necklaces to draw the eye upwards.  It's just you in a clingy piece of fabric too small to even make into a blanket for a newborn.

Add water, and of course, it sticks to every part of the body women would rather not accentuate.

My children don't care about my battle scars, about the rolling hills I'd prefer be flatland.  All they see is an opportunity for fun--with their Aunt, their Uncle, their grandparents...and their mother.
What's a mother to do but cast off all electronic devices, towels, and modest cover-ups; grab a child in each hand; and march towards the always shifting line where the ocean meets the sand.  

There, she is to join in the closed-mouth laughter as she jumps in tandem over the crashing waves.  She is to strap a boogie board's Velcro tether to her wrist and ride those waves to shore with her oldest son.  She might even sit slumped gracelessly over a pile of wet sand as she builds a "replica" of Ariel's castle in Atlantica for her little girl who happily decorates it with broken shells washed up near her feet.
The woman in red and white smiling for the photograph?  She knows her children will look back at this image one day and remember the joy of the day, not how slim she isn't.  She grabs Emerson in one hand as he and she dance past the incoming waves.  She carries Amelia piggy-back through the towering walls of water large enough to knock her down.

Last week, I watched with the world as Prince William's bride, Kate, caused a media flurry when she wore a dress that distinctly showed her post-baby belly bump.  She was beautiful, as always, and my heart went out to her, as I knew the pressure she would be under to achieve physical perfection...again.  

I look at young mothers today and fear for their mental well-being.  Even before their babies are born, everyone is asking how soon they will again be back to their pre-baby weight and in their best pre-baby shape.

And if your babies are now approaching five or ten years old and you still haven't regained your youthful figure?  Well, then, shame on you for your lack of willpower.

Only that's not always the story.   If it were, I'd have willed myself onto the cover of Vogue years ago.

Yeah.  As I said.  It's easy for me to want to hide beneath that tent and cover-up.

But even when it's hard for me to completely internalize God's Word that says I am beautiful to Him just as I am, the smiles, joy, and laughter of my little ones is enough to make me say, "Let's go again next  year."

Images: Our family visiting my brother and his sweet wife up in North Carolina this past week.

1 comment:

  1. There is something so very beautiful about a woman who sees herself in the light of His Word, recognizes her strengths and weaknesses {YES, physically}, and owns her bathing suit on the glorious ocean's shore with her children and family.

    YOU, are beautiful, Jennifer. More in this post, those pics, than I've ever seen you before. And writing this post, well. I do believe it draws us more to you just a this day on the beach drew your children.