I’ve probably never looked this good in a suit, but you get the idea….
I love swimming, especially the first moment when I get into the water. It feels cool (sometimes cold) and refreshing. There’s an instant where I wonder–should I do it now? The colder the water, the longer it takes. But eventually, a thrill of anticipation rises within me and I plunge my body underwater. Seconds later, I emerge drenched with the chlorinated water of my local pool dribbling down my head. Ever since I was little, taking that first dunk under the water was magical.
As I got older, the first dunk became a little harder to achieve. Like many women, I feel horribly self-conscious in a bathing suit (and mine even has little shorts attached). Despite the clingy water-friendly fabric covering my body, it’s like I’m exposed to the whole world…and they all know the truth…I’m fat. It’s not like it’s a secret under my normal every day attire. It’s just more evident when you’re wearing a swimsuit.
Some people at the pool like to sit out in their bikinis or Speedos (I could do without the Speedos!), reading and tanning watching their kids splash around in the pool. Not me. After I shove earplugs in my ears (I’m prone to ear infections) and store my glasses in my bag, I look around me to make sure no one is watching (which is really tricky since I usually take my glasses off first. It would seem silly to put them back on to make sure I wasn’t being gawked at though). Once I’m satisfied that I’m being relatively ignored, I throw off my ugly purple “beach” dress and make a mad dash into the pool.
Just like taking the first dive, I have to psych myself up for this moment, except it’s not enthralling; it’s humiliating. Sometimes it even changes the interactions I have with people in and around the pool. When the lifeguard signs me in, I’m secretly wondering if she is staring at me and hoping that I don’t start to drown because she wouldn’t be able to haul me out of the pool. Or if the kids laughing at the shallow end are laughing at me. I’m not sure if the lady in the bikini has sun in her eyes or if she’s glaring at me wondering how I could have “let myself go” like this. And the interesting single guy reading American short stories (ah, English teacher?), forget about it. He’s probably looking at me with disgust, repulsed by my unattractive female figure.
All this has made me realize something startling; I don’t think this just when I’m at the pool. The very idea has permeated my life–how I see myself and how I believe others see me. I’ve pointed out my observations of ugliness (and ugliness equaling unworthiness) to others, and those who’ve heard my theories have been absolutely floored that I could think such things about myself. “I don’t want to see myself this way,” I argue. “I just do.” I don’t want to see myself this way; I’m just battling it right now. And I won’t always see myself this way. In fact, I won’t always be this way…it’s just how I am today.
Sometimes I wonder where that chubby little kid in her pink leopard print bathing suit hangs out these days, because she certainly isn’t here. That girl jumped off the diving board, swam in the deep end, and drank deeply from the riches of summer. This girl stares at the mirror when wearing tank tops wondering why summer has to be so hot and why her arms are so disgusting. Yet both girls still love that first plunge underwater and can swim happily for hours on end. I’m starting to think the world is my ocean (also a fun place to swim), I just need to be willing to dive in, even if the water is chilling.