Here I am: late 30s (37 to be exact), two pregnancies (one with twins) and three breastfed boys later. I’m not saying my body has ‘been through the ringer’ but I would be stretching the truth if I told you my body was in as non-stretched out condition as it was 20 years ago. I’m starting to think that body image and European beaches could work wonders for the mothers of America. FYI- they all don’t look like this:
The fact that I had two c-sections is somewhat lost on me since my scar has all but disappeared. That’s good and bad, I suppose since there’s really no mark to say ‘Here emerged my children.’ Or something like that. But what I DO have- is a lovely baseball shaped stretch mark on the left side of my tummy thanks to Linc. The child who tried to push his way out of my body while I laid on my side during bed rest for three months. I also have some stretched out skin- which gives me the little pouch that so many of us moms can’t quite figure out what to do with. And lastly, I have my chest- which is actually in halfway decent condition, considering all its been through.
Take all of these factors- and you might be thinking to yourself that they’re nothing. You might have ‘other’ areas as your hang up- which make you cringe at the idea of being seen or exposed. Well I’m here today to tell you ladies: It’s not as bad as you think it is. In fact, no one but you probably even notices.
I’m not a gym person- never have been. So I don’t get the whole working out thing. If that’s you- then great! You probably look super-duper awesome in a bikini and I applaud you. For the rest of us, where life is our ‘gym’ I say ‘Psssst. We’re in the majority here folks’- in case you didn’t know.
I’m not talking about being obese or unhealthy. I’m talking about those of us that carry around the marks of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing which we find is embarrassing or shameful. Stretch marks, extra skin that won’t go away- that sort of thing. While at the beach last week I couldn’t help but look around me and think ‘Wow. These women look awesome.’ — and it wasn’t because they were all in tip-top shape. It’s because they were cool with their bodies the way that they were- and were out there doing their thing regardless of stretch marks and breasts that we less consider less-than perky.
Sunbathing without a top is no big deal in Europe. At least where we have been- the beach here in the Netherlands and now the beach in Spain. Women of all ages, sizes and conditions are out there without their tops to cover their breasts or tankinis to cover their bellies. I won’t lie and say that there weren’t some pretty darn nice looking twenty-somethings, but those women haven’t been where we are just yet. They will, someday- but for now I’m not going to hate them for it.
The majority of women I saw were lounging- but there were also these energy-filled moms playing paddleball, catch, swimming and doing everything else with their kids- all topless. None of them looked perfect- and truth be told my biggest concern for them was skin cancer- but no one cared. No one was gawking. No one was thinking ‘Oh. I look fat today. Poor me.’
I saw stretch marks and sags, ‘shelves’ and muffin tops. All in the name of our children. It really made me think long and hard about how we put pressure, pressure pressure on ourselves to be competitive with this ideal- this woman who really doesn’t exist outside of magazines and really bad television. I saw what real women- women like me look like and it’s not bad. I don’t have a stylist or a personal trainer to make sure that I look perfect each day. I do take care of myself, take pride in my appearance- and that should be enough. Truth is, I’m proud of what my body has accomplished and that should be all that matters.
So did I partake in the topless sunbathing? I did. But I was so paranoid about sunburn that I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy it. In fact, the second day I even wore a two piece bikini I picked up at the last second ‘just in case’. I ended up with an awful sunburn on my lower stomach so ended up the third day in my snowmobile suit-one piece. I felt MORE out of place wearing that! Well. And my neon/eye-blinding white skin. But that’s besides the point.
What do you think? Would you wear a bikini or take off your top on a beach where it was common?