Swimsuit shopping is the WORST.
Last year I was out browsing for things like a bathing suit that was neither matronly or obscene and summer shorts that were lightweight but not see-through, when I had a revelation. I was standing in the fitting room, staring at my reflection under in unflattering fluorescent light, wrinkling my nose.
“I’m fat,” I thought to myself. “I’m gross.”
I hated the way my legs looked, mostly. They are by far my worst feature, the place where all of my extra weight seems to settle, with cellulite rippling all the way down the backs and sides.
I’m fairly certain I was born with cellulite, because I don’t recall ever NOT having it. The sides and backs of my thighs have been dimpled for as long as I can remember, despite weight gains and losses, hippie treatments like “dry brushing,” and diet changes. Some of these things may have improved the appearance ever-so-slightly, but the benefit did not outweigh the cost. I like cake, and I don’t have the time or the energy to dry-brush my legs every day. I mean really.
As a teen, none of my friends had as much cellulite as I did, and I was always embarrassed to show my legs or — GOD FORBID — wear a bathing suit. I read voraciously on the subject, looking for a magic cure that did not involve starvation — because as much as I loathed my cottage cheese legs, I have never hated them enough to be hungry.
It is a battle I’ve been fighting for years, which saddens me, really. I’ve wasted so much time focusing on what I didn’t like about my body, when I could have been appreciating my flat stomach and narrow waist, strong arms, and sturdy build. My body may not be what society says is ideal, but it’s done a damn good job of carrying me through three pregnancies and births. If anything, becoming a mother has opened my eyes to how bad a*s my body really is, cellulite and all.
And as I stood in the fitting room that day staring at myself, I pulled my phone out of my purse to look up photos from our honeymoon almost 11 years ago. I felt fat and gross then too, I remembered. That was before my body had been through anything substantial — it had not yet been marked by motherhood. And you know what? I looked AMAZING. Not fat. Not gross. I looked fit and beautiful, and while I did have some cellulite, it wasn’t nearly as noticeable as I remember thinking it was at the time.
I wish I’d appreciated myself more back then. I wish I appreciated myself more now, too. The truth is, barring some sort of major cosmetic surgery that I cannot afford, I will never look as young or as smooth as I do today. Right now. In this moment.
When I looked back into the fitting room mirror with new eyes, I saw a vibrant, woman in her mid-30s who looked pretty much like any other mid-30s woman. I made the decision right then and there to spend the rest of my life wearing whatever I want to wear, cellulite be damned.
I bought everything I tried on that day.
So now, at 36 years of age, even with bright blue varicose veins crossing the backs of my legs in addition to the dimples (thanks, genetics!), I will wear whatever I damn well please. I would say I’ve earned the right to wear what I want, but the truth is, I was born with the right. I just never took advantage of it because I was too stupidly self-conscious. Considering the fact that there are millions of women all over the world who either don’t have an assortment of clothing items to choose from, or aren’t ALLOWED to dress how they’d like, I think it’s my duty to proudly wear a bathing suit in their honor.
So I will. With pride.
More on Body Image:
- After Years of Self-Loathing, I’ve Finally Made Peace with My Body
- 7 Reasons Why Pregnancy Sex Was Good for My Body Image
- What Being Married to a Gay Man Taught Me About My Body