I can count on one hand the number of times that I've worn a bathing suit sans cover up. My earliest memory is from the summer after second grade. I had a royal blue bikini with sparkley polka dots that I was fond of wearing around the house, or really anywhere. On this particular day, I decided to go sunbathing in our backyard. I went out into the yard wearing my bikini, my white anklet lace socks (very Madonna), my white patent leather Communion shoes. I carried my matching Communion purse and my picture Bible. My plan was to sunbathe and enjoy the pictures of the saints in my Bible. What a sweet/weird kid, right? Anyway, my neighbors that lived behind me obviously found this sight comical and hopped the fence to help me meet my maker. The two girls beat me up, ripped my bikini top, threw my shoes and my blessed Bible into the overgrown mess of ivy in my scary old German neighbor's yard. I didn't find my Bible until months later and by that point my soul was already in jeopardy.
Years later, my mom and godmother would take me to the beach and I would always wear a large t-shirt over my bathing suit. In my mind, a giant graphic tee was the best way to disguise a developing body or lack there of. My mom would say things like "You have such a cute figure," or "Why are you wearing a shirt? Show off that body of yours!" I didn't think there was anything worse in the world than my mom commenting on my figure. To me, my figure was clumpy, weird and not at all suitable for public viewing and my mom's insistence that I show "it" off made me want to bury my developing body in the sand only to come out when the sun had set and I could join the other disfigured creatures of the night. Looking back, I have no idea where this shame came from. Certainly not from my mom. She never wore a cover-up and she also wasn't anything close to slender. She happily wore the same blue flowered halter bathing suit complete with the matronly flowered skirt bottom. She rarely dieted and the only four-letter word in house was SALT. Looking back, I can't figure out how, when and why, at such an early age, I disliked my body.
And now I'm the mother of a little girl, who in my eyes, is absolutely perfect. I want her to be able to go to the beach and to wear whatever she wants (except for thongs or something slutty). I want her to run into the water with excitement and joy and not from fear that others might see her in a bathing suit. How do I accomplish this when I'm still clinging to a cover-up, albeit, a very stylish one? It's time for me to shed the weight of this cover-up and to embrace my body as is. This body, with its flaws, carried me across the finish line of the Marine Core Marathon. These legs have run hundreds of miles and chase a precocious Bean up and down a slide daily. These arms have rocked my child to sleep on many nights and held Bean's hand when she took those first tentative steps. These breasts nursed my baby for six months offering food and comfort to her. And this body, with all its flaws and insecurities grew a baby from the smallest hope into this beautiful little girl who challenges me daily to be a better person. How can I rightfully be ashamed of this body when it's capable of so many wondrous abilities?
For Bean, I will shed my cover-up. I want her to see her body as amazing and strong. I want her to be in awe of her own potential. I know I am.