Step 1: Get a body (if you don’t already have one).
Step 2: Buy a bikini (if you don’t already have one).
Step 3: Put the bikini on your body and voila! You’ve got yourself a bikini body.
Step 3.5: (Don’t forget to stop giving a shit about what other people think. You didn’t care about being judged anyway — did you?)
I think by now we’ve all heard that one and all the many variations on that theme (“how to get a beach body,” “how to have a bikini ready body,” yadda yadda). I give great props to the body positivity movement because the truth is we are all beautiful.
But even Oprah loses sight here and there of the stuff we all know to be true. She might be the high priestess of loving your own “best body,” but weight loss is still what she chews on regularly — it’s both an ongoing focus of her eponymous media (200 articles and counting on Oprah.com) and most recently, led her to put some serious cash where her mouth is with a $12.5 million investment into Weight Watchers. (And in true Oprah fashion, she maybe lost a little [26 lbs. as of the spring] but gained reportedly more than $2.5 million for each pound she’s lost. That would make me give my bod a little extra rich love, I’m just sayin’.)
OK, so neither you nor I am Oprah, and everyone’s reality is a little more in the middle.
Speaking of the middle, I have a confession to make: despite a relatively copacetic body image and pretty good success improving my health by breaking up with carbs (with whom I’ve had a lifelong love affair), my Pillsbury dough girl stomach is my least favorite body part.
(NOTE: That last sentence just dropped out of my head onto my keyboard and I am NOT editing it on purpose. Everything about it is wrong, which is why letting it all hang out is the right thing to do.)
Several years ago I gave into the siren song of Land’s End’s swimwear and started snatching up black tankinis like they were going out of style. Although quite frankly I’m not sure they were ever “in style.”
The name of the company itself is apt, because stocking up on bathing suits — wait, I’m sorry, bathing costumes is more like it — that have names like “Beach Living Ultra High Waist Mini Control” is pretty much the last stop on female sexuality train.
Luckily this year marked the end of the road for my collection of control minis as they’d official lost, well, their control.
In the meantime, something confusing and amazing all at once has been brewing inside of me in recent months — a good ol’ fashioned midlife crisis.
It’s a little crazy making, and yet it’s also magnificent at the same time. For example, I can now count how many fucks I give about many things on less than one hand.
OK, less than one digit.
With a beach weekend looming and a daughter who needed new bathing suits herself, I set off to the mecca of the itsy bitsy teeny tiny bikini — Target.
It wasn’t hard to find a cute suit; when my daughter told me I looked “sexy,” I did my best to bite my tongue, stop wincing, and just accept the damn compliment.
Why is that so hard for some of us?
It was far easier for me to tell her how much I liked the suits she was trying on.
“We have the same stomach,” she said, pointing to my tummy and hers. “Our belly buttons are too deep.”
Now I can agree that if either of our navels were standing in for the tunnels of the Red Keep leading to the Tower of the Hand, Tyrion Lannister would be able to stroll through our belly buttons without even ducking.
That she zeroed in on the sites of our respective umbilical cords was particularly affirming.
And it helped snap me back into reality: my belly, the place that housed two humans for a cumulative 19 months or so, is nothing short of miraculous.
To be disparaging towards how it looks today devalues its importance. The stretch marks and pouchiness, scars and dents are the hills and valleys that make up a pretty amazing roadmap.
That I’m going on about my belly in a blog that posts on my son’s 17th birthday is just the icing on that proverbial cake.
And yes, I’d like a big, phat slice because that’s a celebration and an affirmation that life is sweet.
So if you see me strutting my stuff in a bikini, just know I’m shifting my thinking so I’m not so stuck in (on?) the middle. After all, as Buddha — who has a pretty prodigious belly himself — always said, you yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. And the right to wear whatever you damn well please cuz baby, you earned it.