77. Thunder Thighs and All

77. Thunder Thighs and All

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Thunder Thighs and All

I might have a little bit of cellulite. I might not be toned everywhere. I might struggle in this area or that. But accepting that just empowers me.

~Kim Kardashian, Harper’s Bazaar

“You want me to present myself half-naked to a bunch of strangers?” I asked my husband, Wayne, when he suggested I join his master’s swim team.

“All body types are there,” he said, knowing how self-conscious I was about my size. “And all ages and skill levels,” he added, anticipating my next argument. “It’s not about what you look like or how fast you swim. It’s about getting in the water and enjoying some exercise.”

Enjoy? When was the last time I enjoyed being in a bathing suit? Probably the last time I was thin, which was around age ten.

And when was the last time I swam laps? Had I ever? No.

My husband was the fish in our family. Growing up he’d spent summers at his neighborhood pool, competing on the community swim team, and in high school he was a lifeguard. As a kid, I was more the show-up, splash-around-when-I-got-hot, and then go-eat-snacks-on-my-towel type.

I’m not sure how he finally convinced me to go. I think it was the promise of the social aspect. I had just moved from Phoenix to Jacksonville to join him — he’d moved earlier for work — and I hadn’t started working or making any friends yet.

“The team is great,” he said. “They get together and have parties from time to time. They go out to eat after practices. Trust me. You’ll like it.”

It was something for us to do together as a couple. Sort of. He’d swim in a faster lane than I would, but we could talk driving to and from the pool. It might be fun.

If it weren’t for the fact that I had to put on a bathing suit.

Which in and of itself, wasn’t that bad. On the occasions we did something that called for a bathing suit, I kept my thighs covered with a sarong or shorts. That’s what I was most embarrassed about — my thick, jiggly, cottage-cheese-stuffed, stretch mark-scarred thighs. All of me was chunky, but my thighs were the worst. They were hideous and I knew it. I was doing the world a public service concealing them.

Now my husband was asking me to expose them for public viewing. It made my stomach churn.

“Give it a try one time,” he said. “That’s all I’m asking. If you’re miserable, I’ll never ask you to go again.”

I gave in, because my heart knew how lucky I was to have a husband who wanted to spend time with me. Thunder thighs and all.

My stomach was in knots all the way to that first practice. To my relief, a lot of people were already in the pool swimming warm-up laps when we arrived. Wayne introduced me to the coach, Walter.

“I’ve never done this before,” I confessed. “I’m afraid I’ll be slow.”

“No problem,” said Walter. “We’ve got a lane for all speeds. Let’s try this one for starters. See how it fits.”

He led me to the first lane. A lady in her seventies was at the wall adjusting her goggles. “Joan, this is Courtney. She’s a newbie. Show her the ropes, will you?”

“Be glad to,” said Joan. “Grab a kickboard and hop on in. I’ll explain how we work things around here!”

The moment of truth had arrived. I walked back to the bleachers, set my towel down next to Wayne’s, and stripped down to my swimsuit. Then I dashed back to the lane and quickly got in.

Joan explained the drills and how we shared the lane; then we started swimming.

It was tiring, but invigorating. Joan couldn’t have been nicer. Before I knew it, practice was over and everyone was getting out. Wayne came over to check on me.

“How’d you do? It looks like you survived.”

“I’m still afloat,” I reassured him.

“You hungry? Some of the team is grabbing a bite after. Want to join them?”

“I don’t know . . .”

“You should go,” Joan encouraged. “I have to get home. But I think they’re going to Pizza Palace. Have you been yet?”

I shook my head.

“It’s really good Italian food. You’d have fun. Great way to get to know everyone,” she said.

“If you want to go, I guess that’d be fine,” I said to Wayne.

“Great!” he said. “But . . . that means you’ll have to get out of the water.”

I looked toward my towel, A.K.A. my Thigh Shield. It was blocked by a gaggle of swimmers.

My safety blanket (towel) was a few feet away, but it might as well have been miles.

Wayne was right. There were all ages and body types present. The swim team wasn’t comprised of the Baywatch hard body studs and beauties I had imagined. They were regular folks, some more toned than others, who were currently drying off and talking about everything from work and kids to swim strokes and current events.

How I envied them their casualness; they were in no hurry to hide their bodies.

The fact still remained that I was embarrassed about my body and I was about to expose it for all to see.

Hesitantly, I climbed out of the water and tried to rush to my towel as inconspicuously as possible. Before I got to it, someone shouted, “Hey, Wayne! Is that your wife?”

Suddenly, I was living a nightmare. Me. Dripping wet. Thighs totally exposed. The center of attention.

My safety blanket (towel) was a few feet away, but it might as well have been miles. There have been few times in life I have felt so exposed or vulnerable.

But everyone was so nice and welcoming. No one stared at my legs. No one gagged or threw up at the sight of them.

I look back on that now and laugh. Swim team was the best thing that ever happened to my body image. I never got ripped or lean from swimming. But I learned new skills, like flip turns and the butterfly stroke. And by the end of that summer I was standing around after practice talking and laughing without rushing to cover myself up anymore.

Because that was the best part of all — I made friends. Ones who accepted me as I am, warts and all. Or, in my case, cellulite thunder thighs and all.

~Courtney Lynn Mroch

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