Like many women and even men, for my whole adult life, I have been afraid to wear a bathing suit. Approx two years ago, I tried to challenge this and, in a lot of ways, I succeeded.
But, on one day, I was feeling particularly vulnerable. I went to swim at the gym (as usual) and all went well. It was in the locker room that it happened. This woman looked me up and down and looked at me with such disgust. She actually sneered. I have never forgotten her face and every time I wanted to swim, I literally became nauseas with the memory of her face and her disgust.
This summer, the husband and I went on vacation. The lake cottage was hot and there was no AC. I had a bathing suit packed, as always, just in case I worked up the courage to swim… and I decided to take the bull by the horns.
It was terrifying. That woman’s face was swimming around in my head. I couldn’t breathe. I became sure that my husband would divorce me once he saw how horrific I looked in a bathing suit. I started to remember an old relationship that ended in large part because I got treatment for my eating disorder and dared to gain weight. I was sure there would be a replay of that experience with my marriage.
I swam anyway. Every single day we were there. Oh yeah, it was awesome.
Even after I had swam twice, the fear of being divorced for wearing a bathing suit (yes, I know now and knew then how ridiculous that sounds) became so bad that I had to tell the hubby about it. He was so supportive, understanding and knew just how to laugh at my fears so as to validate that they were unfounded fears, but not make me feel like an idiot.
That woman and her sneer is still in my head, but she’s not ruling me any longer. Her sneer was about her and not me and it is wonderful to fully understand this after a long time of being owned by the memory, even if it still makes me queasy every time I think of it.
I’ve been out. I’ve been having fun. I’ve been riding my bike, even though some jerk yelled something about my ass the very first time I took my bike out last year and that memory too haunted me and prevented me from biking very much until now. The very day he yelled at me, I considered that he actually meant it as a compliment (it is unclear), but the possibility that he didn’t gripped me so tightly that it was hard to go out an exercise in the daylight for fear of more commentary.
You know what? Fuck their comments.
This is my life and it is mine to life. My body is no one’s business by my own. I am enjoying myself and having so much fun going out and biking (and this winter, I will probably join a gym for more swimming too!) and I’m not letting prejudice get in the way of that.
I have also been repeating to myself over and over “function – not form” to remind myself how wonderful it is to be physically capable and stronger and just feel better from exercise.
I let myself circle a particularly beautiful garden on the bike path that is often filled with butterflies as many times as I want, no matter what anyone thinks about this silly woman going round and found breathing in the scents. Maybe I can inspire someone else to have that courage to enjoy them self as well. That would be worth enduring a few looks and comments.
I often think about my history of a complete focus on form over function of too many years of my life that included my eating disordered years. I wouldn’t have cared if someone completely scooped out my insides – all my muscles, thoughts, feelings and anything that made me who I was – if I could have a perfect exterior that everyone would approve of and worship. I giggle to myself at the memories while riding my bike, because in the light of so much fun and feeling good the idea of the form obsession becomes utterly ridiculous.
I’m not posting a picture of myself in a bathing suit. I’m not ready for that yet. I’m also not sure that if I was confident enough to do it that I’d even do it then. If I ever get to that level, we shall see. Instead, I give you a picture of my smiling face flush after a day of really living life and having some serious fun.