I hate my body. The internet tells me I need to love the skin I’m in, imperfections and all. As much as I try not to, I still hate my body.
I hate that I feel this way about myself.
My Facebook feed is full of stories and pictures of confident women proudly posing for pictures in their bathing suits. I’m not talking about models or movie stars. These women aren’t skinny and perfect, just ordinary moms with cellulite, dimpled thighs, droopy boobs and stretch marks.
I envy these women.
I am jealous of the mom in the two-piece bathing suit I see at the pool. The skin on her belly is loose and flabby, like mine. But I’m covered up with a towel, making excuses to my kids about why I won’t get in the water with them. I watch this other mom laughing and splashing with the children that are most certainly responsible for her paunchy midsection.
This other mom doesn’t seem to care that her body wasn’t bikini ready. Ready or not, this mom put on her bikini anyway. She’s making memories with her children while I’m burrowed under my beach towel because I’m self-conscious.
Because I hate my body.
I wish I had an ounce of that “I don’t give a shit” confidence. I wish I could love my body exactly as it is. But, I don’t. I don’t love it at all.
One of my friends refers to her stretch marks as “a map of all the times I grew.” She sees her body as a canvas: stretch marks, spider veins, wrinkles, lumps and bumps are painted on that canvas, telling her story. I wish I felt this way. But, I don’t.
I hate my body.
I should be proud that I’m strong and healthy. My body can do cool stuff: run five miles without stopping. Lift my four-year-old over my head, pretending he’s an airplane. He screams with laughter as he whizzes through the air. He does not notice the wiggly arm fat my eyes fly to each time I look at myself in the mirror.
I don’t fit the textbook definition of obese. I don’t shop in the plus size department. Most people would probably refer to me as “normal size.” I take reasonably good care of my body -- I eat right, exercise, all that stuff.
But, every time I look in the mirror, I hate my body. I hate the way my stomach ripples. I hate the doughy flesh with the crooked, shiny stretch marks. I hate the way the skin on my upper arms flaps back and forth when I wave hello to someone. Most of all, I hate my squishy mom butt.
I dread the onset of summer because warmer weather means exposed skin. Summer means my kids want to go to the pool, to the beach and the waterparks.
Shopping for a bathing suit brings on Xanax-worthy anxiety. As I stand in my underwear in the unforgiving fluorescent light of Target’s dressing room, willing myself to be brave enough to just try the damn thing on already, I hate my body even more.
I hate that the internet tells me to accept myself as I am, to be proud of my body and the story it tells. I run my hands over my midsection, remembering the smooth, taut skin of my teens and early twenties. Instead of shrugging and saying “So what? I’ve got a muffin top and I still look damn good,” I remember the size eight jeans shoved in the back of my closet. I don’t know why I don’t throw those jeans out or give them to someone who can wear them. I try to make them fit over my size 12 ass periodically, which becomes an exercise in frustration and humiliation that makes me hate my body even more.
I hate my body because it reminds me I’m getting old and that my days as a MILF have slipped away. Believe me, I’m not proud of my vanity and I mentally kick myself in the ass for being shallow every time I get a glimpse of myself in the reflective glass of a storefront window.
I’m surrounded by confident women who are beautiful in all their imperfections. I study them. I try to be like them. I wish I had one ounce of the confidence of the mom in the size 16 bathing suit I see walking on the beach with her husband. I think she’s beautiful. If the look in his eyes and the way his hand caresses the small of her back is any indication, he thinks she’s beautiful, too.
I wish I had just a little bit of the mojo of the size 22 woman posting a dressing room selfie wearing a bikini. Her generous curves spilled from her bathing suit as she looked the camera (and the fitting room mirror) square on with a smile. I hope she bought it. She looked amazing.
I tell myself I am enough, that I am perfect in my imperfections. But I still hate my body. I am not confident. I am not at peace.
I am working on it.
We are going to the pool today. As we pack our cooler with a bazillion pouches of Capri Sun and triple-check to make sure we have sunscreen and extra towels, my 4-year-old son grabs my hand excitedly.
“Mommy, you will be my partner at the pool today,” he declares. I’m not sure what being a pool partner entails but I have a hunch it means I have to come out from under my towel and get in the water.
I hate my body. In spite of the accepting attitudes on the internet telling me to love myself as I am, I am self-critical of every flabby, jiggly inch.
I’m trying. Trying not to hate my body. I am soaking in every ounce of what the confident women of all shapes and sizes are doing. Maybe I will borrow pages from their books tomorrow.
But, as much as I wish I didn’t, today, I still hate my body.