i did something this weekend that i haven’t done since i was a kid: i walked around in a bathing suit when i wasn’t on the beach. okay so it was just to a little deli to get lunch takeout and walk back to the motel pool to sit and eat, but it was kind of huge for me.
some of you probably think, “what’s the big deal?” and others are thinking about how much you want people without beach bodies to cover up already. let me clarify that my bathing suit is a tankini with a skirted bottom so i’m not talking about a tiny bathing suit here. even though i’ve worked hard to wear a size or two smaller than the “average” american woman, i’m still a big person. and i’ve always been self-conscious, especially about my heavy arms (my mother used to say that we are descended from good, peasant stock).
but i had a revelation.
near us on the beach was a muslim family enjoying the perfect beach day and i found myself staring at them, or trying hard not to stare at them. the father wore knee length bathing trunks and no shirt, but the two women with him where wearing long pants, a long tunic and black head covers. they were happily walking on the shoreline with their children while the water soaked the bottoms of their long pants and i thought how uncomfortable that wet fabric must feel against their skin. later, the women were swimming and playing in the ocean, up to their necks in the water, still completely covered. they could only feel the cool ocean water directly on the uncovered skin of their faces, hands and feet.
a few things occurred to me: 1. how glad i was that they were not restricted from enjoying the ocean and 2. how sad i felt that they would never feel the cool water or the ocean breeze or even the hot sun directly on their skin and 3. here i was with the freedom to enjoy all of those sensations and had spent years choosing not to.
whatever self-consciousness those women may have felt at being on the beach and in the water fully clothed did not seem to matter to them. they frolicked, tossed around a football, giggled with their children and generally enjoyed a refreshing and fun day at the beach.
last year i decided that too many years had passed since my self-consciousness deprived me of a swim in the ocean and waded in. okay, so i was slammed into the sand moments later because i have no wave skills, still i headed out toward c and the two of us had a nice time. this year, i was prepared to enjoy the ocean again but made sure i had a cover-up for when we walked to and from the motel.
seeing those women made me think.
i can tell you that it’s a lot cooler to be out in the hot sun in a wet bathing suit and no cover up, but i can also tell you that i got very sunburned. i can also tell you that later that evening as c and i were leaving for dinner, we took a selfie in which i was wearing a strapless dress without my usual cover-up and someone posted a snotty and hurtful remark – a person who often complains about other’s insensitivity.
my first instinct was to change my dress after that remark. my second instinct was to put on the cover-up even though it was a little too warm to wear it.
in the end, i didn’t change my dress. i took the wrap with me and i only put it on because i was cold.
freedom sometimes takes a bit of time.