I have always had issues with bathing suits. More accurately speaking, I have always had issues with my body … IN a bathing suit. The problem is I’m flat chested; my silhouette is a little like a paintbrush- no curves, straight up and down, plenty of hair on my head.
I remember lounging poolside once many years ago, and having my father tell me I looked like I needed an “elixir.” I had to think long and hard, back to the last episodes of Bonanza, to remember what an elixir was. (It’s a catch all liquid “medicine” of the snake oil variety.. usually sold in a dirty brown bottle.. for sickly looking cowboys.)
No wonder why I always wore a cover-up.
Fast forward to my last, epic, public appearance in a bikini on a cruise in 2012. I went to Macy’s prior to the trip in search of a fabulous suit that I could strut my stuff (or in this case, strut my stuffing) in. I chose a cute little crocheted number. Of course the top needed a lot more padding, so off to Jo Ann Fabrics I went to purchase the appropriate “filler.” What I didn’t realize is that I purchased oversized shoulder pads instead of bra inserts.
I’m telling you right now, I looked pretty good—dry. It was the getting out of the jacuzzi part where my fate was sealed and my secret exposed. You see the shoulder pads filled up with so much water that when I stood up, my bikini top practically sagged down to my knee caps, and the water came gushing out as if I was stuffed with sponges..which of course, I was. It was a “memorable” moment. When I got home I ripped the (still damp) pads out of the suit and immediately gave the ensemble a new “forever home” in my daughter’s drawer.
I’ve never quite understood why I feel so self conscious about the shape of my body. As much as I hate to admit it, it must all boil down to some inner fear of being judged, of being measured against a standard and falling flat (haha). I am so envious of people who are completely comfortable in their own skin; women like 64 year old, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad. For a girl like me who has to work up the courage to walk from my beach chair into the ocean waves, it is almost impossible to imagine swimming from Cuba to Key West..in a bathing suit of course.. on live TV! Had I raced Ms. Nyad across the Florida straights, she would have been halfway to victory while I was still back at the starting line waiting for the courage to drop my towel!
I guess that’s the difference between me and Diana. She clearly sees her body as a tool, an instrument to help her reach well defined goals and fulfill lifelong dreams. And maybe that’s where the answer ultimately lies, not in a better body, but in better dreams…bigger dreams that are so challenging and so exciting and so all encompassing that there’s no room in the mind to worry about how one looks pursuing them.
So that’s how I’m going to try to approach my life..more like Diana Nyad who is always busy imagining her next adventure. I’m going to stop focusing on the shortcomings of my “paintbrush,” and concentrate instead on how I want to fill my canvas.