swimsuitFor 6 months of my life I looked really great in a swimsuit. I was 18, eating mostly fat free jello and running like there was a fat monster chasing me. After that season of inexplicable joy, I began to loathe wearing swimsuits as much as the next American woman.

Two things have happened to change my disdain for the pool. First, we moved to Texas where swimsuits are the yoga pants of suburbia. Which is to say, everyone wears them. And then I had a daughter and kept reading pieces that told me that the way to keep her from being overly body-conscious (also known as having her own “season of fat free jello”) was to actually put on a swimsuit. So I was determined, this was my year. Not only was I going to get a swimsuit, I was going to get a bikini. That’s right people. Slow metabolism and stretch marks be damned, I was going whole hog.

So I headed to my local department store and tried on like 300 swimsuits. It was 9am in a mostly empty, overly-lit dressing room. And it was the loudest my head has been in years. The voices that came to me were from all over the spectrum.

First, there were the usual suspects. I thought about issues like cellulite, love handles, and the aforementioned stretch marks. I battered myself around a bit for putting on 50 pounds (I know, I know) with each of my pregnancies. And then I remembered how good all those hamburgers and milkshakes were, and thought #byefelisha.

victorian

Then I began to think of all the EMPOWERED WOMEN stuff I am bombarded with right before summer starts. We swimsuit-shopping women are told: Embrace your body! Love your curves! Out of shape is the new sexy! I mean, I guess. Certainly, embracing your body is a good thing, but I still cannot figure out why that directly correlates to me showing some skin. That line of thought makes me want to order something with a long skirt and a floral print from the Lands End catalog and call it a day.

Finally, there’s the summer modesty police. They tell us women should have their midriffs hidden, especially once we’ve become mothers. Perhaps if this had been more engrained in me as a child I would be better about keeping it all under a Lilly Pulitzer coverup. But I am first and foremost someone who loves efficiency and comfort. I’ve got three words for the Gospel of the One Piece: it is hot. And by that I mean temperature-wise. So I am not about to cover up that much–sorry, I’m not sorry.

All of this is to say that I stood in front of the mirror and realized that I had no idea what I thought of the swimsuits. Which is crazy-making. I could only conjure images of Heidi Klum and feel inadequate. So I would think I should “love my body more.” Because that always works. (Nothing says failure to uphold a rule like a solid “should.”) And then I’d hear my well-meaning religious advice-givers telling me that a bikini is completely out of the question. It was so loud in that quiet dressing room that not even Katie Perry singing “Roar” over the department store speakers–you can’t make this stuff up–could make me feel any better. I quite literally could not hear myself think.

Finally, I yelled aloud, “Stop telling me what to do!”

Life is really short. The way I figure it, I’ve got another 40-50 summers left in me. Another ten where my kids will still want to play in the pool with me. Another two where I’ll be holding a baby in the shallow end. And this may be my last summer where our schedule means that we can go to the pool almost every day, just as the sun is setting.

I’m ready to enjoy the summers I’ve been blessed with and just shut up about swimwear. If you’ve got some rules in your head then might I suggest yelling/praying them away in a Kohl’s department store. Run from the rules. Tell them to go sit on a tack. Better yet, lay them at the feet of Jesus. I promise he’ll give you something more interesting and life-giving to think about.

May we all be given the grace to pick out something that just makes us feel nice (for me, that means polka dots), and jump off the diving board. Happy Summer, everyone.