Swimming and I have had a rough relationship.
At four months old, there is photographic evidence of me smiling in the pool, getting my face dipped in and coming out with more smiles. At about age four, I have vivid memories of my bright blue suit, splashed with numbers, letters and apples. At age eight, I started spending my summers on the Country Club swim team, building memories that – more often than not – involved a finger stained red from Jello powder.
Then, society and its expectations wormed their way in. And I didn’t see how someone like me could be seen at the pool. Let alone do something like swim on a school swim team when I would *gasp* have my picture in the yearbook wearing a swimsuit.
I am exceedingly pale. So much so that, in high school, I only wore shorts when absolutely necessary (I.e dance camp…definitely NOT simply for 98 degree days!)
I am NOT a supermodel. Or any sort of model, for that matter.
I have curly hair. Hair that I used to blow-dry and flat iron daily. Hair that reverts to its natural state, maybe with some added frizz, when wet.
I do not belong in a magazine wearing a swimsuit.
So, the pool and the beach and essentially the entire season of summer was distanced from me. Something to be endured until the crisp, cool breezes of fall could be felt again.
But, maybe I am slow to bloom or maybe I am being changed inside.
I am in love with swimming and summer again.
My paleness? Still an issue (although, THANK YOU to whomever invented the tinted lotions that came around just a few years too late for my high school self), but I’m realizing my skin is going to change. I have forehead lines, for goodness sake! And the color of my skin…well it isn’t quite the be all and end all it once was. Besides, I don’t get tan. I freckle. Freckles are fine, maybe even cute, but I’m starting to think that in about 10 years I may have to blur the line between “freckle” and “age spot,” so I might a well just slap on another coat of 50 SPF now.
My body? Thanks to that sweet D, who so kindly grew to nearly 8 1/2 pounds and separated my abdominal muscles, the skin on my stomach is very much not my favorite part of my body. But, overall? I am starting to look at others more realistically and, therefore, at myself more realistically. If you only look at the pictures people post on FB or what shows up in a magazine, it is obviously (although it took me years to realize this!) going to be the “best-case scenario” bodies. People like me don’t post bikini pics. (Or wear bikinis, for that matter.) So, over 12 years after first struggling with bulimia, I am finally judging myself against a more realistic standard. And I look fine. In fact, I walked through a beach town in just my swimsuit a few weeks ago.
My hair? Well, it took about 25 years (I subtracted the first two, during which I was bald, but seemingly content with this status) before I learned to love my hair. My mom always envied my hair and I just knew she was crazy. She may be…but she was also right about my hair. Learning to just let it take on the texture it wanted has saved me so much grief. In that beach town, I woke up, scrunched in some conditioner, pinned back my bangs and stopped worrying about my hair for the day. And, so long as you didn’t want to actually touch the tangled mass on my head, it looked pretty good most days.
Magazines? They never seem to take my picture anyway. Teachers in small Midwestern towns don’t seem to get much coverage, so it probably wouldn’t matter if I WAS cover girl material. And the grown-up me realizes I do not have the desire to maintain that wardrobe or subject myself to that kind of scrutiny.
So, bring it on summer. I’m headed to the pool.