Monday, July 25, 2016

Rocking the Bathing Suit

It's summer, it's July, and that means as it has for the past who-know-how-many years, it's time for the kids to take swimming lessons.

Every year since both Anna and Ethan have taken lessons, it's been the same: they never seem to have classes at the same time, so for two weeks we spend two hours at the town pool nearly every day. For the last two years, we had Chloe with us, too, of course, and those first years it was fairly easy to distract her with the playground nearby so she really didn't notice big brother and sister were swimming.

I knew this year that would NOT be the case.

I knew I'd need to sign her up for a class, too (Parent-Tot, which goes through age 3).

That meant...sigh...I knew I'D need to go to swimming lessons, too.

Okay, so let's just cut to the chase here. I've never been one of those people to walk around in a bikini. I've never been stunningly slim. I've never really rocked a bathing suit, and for the most part, I haven't really cared. But...yeah. The last few years I've put on some weight. Having a baby in your late thirties will do that. Who am I kidding? I'm not going to blame Chloe. Loving food too much and exercise too little will do that.

I KNOW I need to lose weight. I have a number of wonderful, were-overweight-but-are-now-fit friends who I know would be happy to help me. I realize this, and I realize I have to do something about my love affair with food (darned Italian genes!) but that's a story for another day. The point is, I was going to have to suit up and bring Chloe to swimming lessons.

First I had to ditch my plain black, threadbare, I'll-wear-this-boring-thing-and-try-to-be-inconspicuous bathing suit and actually get some new suits. After wildly contorting myself to squeeze into a few in a tiny dressing room with Chloe, I was happy to find two I liked, and on sale at that! (Sometimes I look at the price of bathing suits and want to pass out. One hundred bucks!? For something I'll wear for a few months each summer?! Craziness!).

I tried to think about all of those articles that have been floating around online. Okay, I'll be honest. I haven't even read the articles. I've seen so many now half the time I skim the intro and get the general point. You know what I'm talking about? The one about overcoming your aversion to putting on a bathing suit and putting one on so you can spend precious moments with your kids? Or the one about not being afraid to be photographed? Or about reaching your forties and saying, "Who cares?!" about so many things you used to care about?

Yeah, I tried to think about all of that. But as the week for swimming lessons drew closer I also thought about the pool. I thought about the fact that the way things were set up, if you went in to change you had to walk RIGHT PAST the gate entrance where all of the kids and parents of all ages were standing waiting for their respective lessons. And the way the Parent-Tot class was right in the shallow edge of the pool where other parents set up their chairs and look at their phones or read or possibly judge how crappy you look in a bathing suit.

Did I mention I refuse to wear one of those skirty old-lady bathing suits? To me, the only way to rock one of those is to spend more money than I wanted to spend. There are some cute styles, but they're not usually the ones you'll find at Kohl's.

I could see myself lumbering across the pavement, while some mom with her hair pulled up in a sophisticated messy bun in her work-out clothes sat in her chair on the other side of the chain-link fence and wrinkled her nose at the sight in front of her.

Sometimes I wonder if our middle school selves ever really leave us?

So, the day of swimming lessons finally arrived. Only it was cancelled at the last-minute due to thunderstorms. SO, the real first day of swimming lessons finally arrived. We got to the pool and I stealthily scoped out the situation. There was no one there I knew, except a grandma who brought her grandson to the town play groups sometimes. Good. Chloe and I slinked into the bathroom. Actually, I slinked and Chloe screeched because she wanted to jump into the pool. Immediately.

As we got out of there and I desperately tried to convince Chloe that we had to wait another 10 minutes for her lesson as she cried and drew all sorts of unnecessary attention our way, I realized something. I was darned hot. The week had been hot. And the week before. Our mostly non-air conditioned house was steamy. I wanted to get in the pool, badly.

Then I saw the other moms (and a few dads) coming through the gate. And wouldn't you know? Of course they were human, meaning all shapes and sizes. Yeah, some looked as if they were the types who just "forget" to eat sometimes, but most were just regular people, with all manner of body types and imperfections. Duh. And they were tending to their babies and toddlers. They were pretty much too distracted to check out my bathing suit.

I don't know how many times I tell my kids this, when they're agonizing over looking silly or people judging them. Most of the time, people are thinking about their own "stuff." They're not paying attention to us nearly as much as we think they are.

And another thing, even if they are...I remember hearing someone talk once about being nervous about inviting people over her house because it was not fancy and was rather messy. Then she told herself, maybe I'm not doing this for me. Maybe I'm doing this for someone else who needs to see someone else's house isn't perfect, so that they can let their guard down, so they can know they're not alone and it's okay.

Maybe someone needed to look at my spider veins and say, she's not caring, I can do this, too!

Maybe they weren't looking at all because they were busy with their own life, child, and self.

Or maybe they were judging and that's just life.

I know I need to get more in shape...not to impress anyone but to be healthy, to take care of myself a bit better.

I know I have never really rocked a bathing suit and probably never will.

I know that little by little, I am caring less.

And I know that that cool water on a sweltering day felt darned good. So did playing in the water with my child. Maybe I'm not rocking the bathing suit, but I can do my best to rock my forties and, like those articles keep saying, finally toss off the albatross of caring what everyone thinks. It's refreshing really, to finally stop realizing the world doesn't revolve around me.

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