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Monday, July 4, 2016

The Bathing Suit Dilemma

I can't avoid it any longer. It's time to talk about bathing suits. I've always loved bathing suits; and I have rocked them. I could be falsely modest, but there was a time when I looked cute in a bathing suit. And then I had kids. They really do ruin everything, right? Except they don't because they are life changing and the best thing to ever happen to you and I love them, but they do make the bathing suit aesthetic complicated.

So, I love the beach; and I would love to tell you that the first thing I see on the beach is the magnificent ocean and splendor of the dunes. Alas, those linger in my periphery as I involuntarily focus on the suits of the women in front of me, beside me, diagonally of me; you get the picture. I would love to confess that my gaze is drawn to these suits as one would gauge a museum of fine art; admiring the cut and color, the creative use of materials and space, the artful marriage of form and function. That would be a lofty mischaracterization of my intent. No, I succumb to my base Judgy McJudgerson self in an attempt to feel justified to be wearing a bathing suit at all. Horrible thoughts that set the women's movement back years, stream through my head:

"Well if she's wearing that suit, than I'm fine."

"Her legs are worse than mine."

"She has a belly and she's wearing a bikini."

"There's no way that woman had three kids. Bitch."

"That's got to be the nanny."

Yes, I am hateful. I am. I hate myself. And therein lies the root of my judging. Not a shocking revelation. In order to feel better about myself I rate others to make sure I am still on the upper end of the arbitrary scale of "Who's the Best." I am Darwinian in my judging, just really trying to survive.

"Is that cellulite? Does she have cellulite too?"

"I bet that suit is expensive. They must have a lot of money. She probably has her dream job and owns that fancy house over there with the Lilly Pulitzer towels hanging on the deck to dry."

"Her kids' sand castle is perfect. I bet they also play the violin beautifully and speak fluent Mandarin."

"Her kids look like they're actually enjoying those Quinoa Pomegranate Kale popsicles, and they have repurposed the sticks to fashion a biodegradable raft to use in the ocean."

As hideous as my judging sounds, it is simply a coward's diversion from embracing my flaws. I'm not talking about the puckered legs, wobbly arms and disappearing chin. I'm not even talking about bathing suits or body image. I'm talking about the involuntary human tendency to judge in order to withstand the pervasive personal internal judges' table holding up their "You Suck" placards. So I desperately search the beaches for someone who sucks more. I choose immediate gratification over compassion; existence over evolution.

And then it hits me. Knowing that I am far from original, if I am judging them, there is at least one or 87 of them judging me. And how dare they! They do not know the burdens I carry. They don't have any idea about the diagnosis that leads to Teenager #1's behavior or the desperate need for some kind of control that leads to Teenager #2's eating habits. They don't know.

Oh, I get it. That means I don't know either. I don't know about the tantrum their youngest had when they couldn't find their sandal this morning. I don't know about the school conference they just had addressing their first grader's reading challenges, I don't know that those Lily Pulitzer towels are a hand me down from a judgmental sister-in-law who is convinced she's doing a good deed. I don't know. So, how dare I choose to simply exist rather than evolve?

I have not been to the beach yet this year, but I Pledge to see courage, fortitude, vulnerability, flaws and resiliency in every, tankini, ruched halter, speedo and swim dress. I will see the majesty of individual experience.

I will still fixate on my own cellulite though. I'm not that evolved.

6 comments:

  1. Relieved to hear you'll see courage & fortitude in my attempt to squeeze into last year's bathing suit, since we're going swimming today! Glad that instead of the 17 lbs I've gained, you will instead see the majesty of individual experience. I promise to return the favor!

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  2. Love this. So true. So human. So reminds me of this: https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/DFWKenyonAddress2005.pdf see bottom of page 7 for startling connection to your own genius Mary Carpenter.

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    1. This is one of my absolute favorites Ben!

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  3. Truth. And humor. And insight. I love you, Mary!

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