83. Skinny Dipping

83. Skinny Dipping

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Skinny Dipping

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

~Anaïs Nin

“Come on, Mom! Get in the pool!” my five-year-old called from the water.

“Maybe a little later!” I said, with a forced smile, knowing full well I had just lied to my son. I sat in the shade of a patio umbrella, awash in guilt.

I really wanted to join him and splash with reckless abandon in the cool water. I wanted to hold him on my lap and careen down the water slide together, give him dolphin rides, and teach him how to float on his back. Instead, I sat on the deck and told him to stay in the shallow end.

Three things kept me rooted in that chair, baking in the hot sun. First was the space between my pool chair and the edge of the pool. Ten steps, to be precise. Ten steps to walk with no towel covering parts of me that my swimsuit wouldn’t. Ten steps, feeling very much like a brontosaurus lumbering across the ground, legs jiggling for all to see. Ten steps might as well have been a mile.

Second, there were lots of people around. And not just any people. Family. At that moment I gladly would’ve traded my loved ones for a group of random strangers who would glance at me once and get back to their own business. Sharing an afternoon with family was so much worse. Strangers might silently judge the plus-size mom, but family will say it out loud, discuss it over coffee, and revisit the topic at regular intervals.

In particular, I was stressed over one very thin family member who wouldn’t know what cellulite was if it came up to her and introduced itself. She had this rather predictable habit of coming up to me, giving my body a quick once-over, and then saying, “So . . . think you’ll have any more kids?”

Lastly, and worst of all, the thing that kept me from jumping in the pool was myself. My own insecurities and expectations of what a bathing suit should look like on my body. Irrational thoughts about whether or not people would still like me if they saw what I really looked like, as if they couldn’t already know my size from when I wore regular clothes.

A bead of sweat trickled down my back as the day grew warmer. I sat and watched my kids play with their cousins. I watched my brothers enjoy a rambunctious game of water basketball, and my mom swim with her grandkids. I watched my oldest sister take my son down the water slide, laughing joyfully, even though she has a shape much like mine. I was angry with myself for sitting on the sidelines of life and letting my weight stop me from living as fully as I should.

After a while, every part of me screamed for cool relief beneath the bright blue water. I rolled my pants up past my knees and sat at the edge of the pool. I’m sure I looked ridiculous sitting there in jeans and a T-shirt, but it was the best I could manage. The water on my calves was heaven. My brother-in-law noticed me sitting there. He swam over and hauled himself out of the pool. I half hoped he had come over to push me in, but instead he sat down next to me.

“Deb, why aren’t you swimming?” he asked, with no hint of judgment in his voice.

I sat there for a minute and thought of all the reasons. My mind shuffled through one excuse after another until I sighed and said, “I just can’t. I feel so fat.”

“Well, let me ask you this,” he said. “If you were here all alone, and there was no one else to see you, would you put on a suit and get in the pool?”

I burst out laughing and said, “If I were all alone, I’d be going down that slide stark naked!”

He smiled and shrugged as if to say, “Then what are you waiting for?”

I dropped my towel on a chair. Left my insecurities there, too.

I had to admit, the man made an excellent point. He jumped back in and swam away and I went inside and changed. I nearly lost my nerve as I approached the pool, towel clutched tight against me.

But at that moment my son saw me standing there and his eyes lit up.

“Mom!” he screamed loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. “Mom’s getting in the pool!”

What else could I do? I dropped my towel on a chair. Left my insecurities there, too. And I got in the pool.

~Debra Mayhew

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