As we walk to the beach, my son urges, “Come on Mom, hurry up! I want to go and play! Why are you walking so slowly?” He runs ahead, cricket bat in one hand, boogie board in the other.
‘Well, my son,’ I think, ‘I could explain to you my inner thighs… You see, the fact that they are rubbing together as I take every single step frustrates me severely. It is indeed not a pleasant feeling. No… But I guess I might as well speak Chinese or something because you wouldn’t understand a word I’m saying. Nor would you really care.’ I think of the very painful extents I’ve put myself through these past couple of months to get rid of my cellulite in preparation of walking on the beach in a swimming costume. As with many things in life, the end result falls exponentially short from the expectation. Had I stuck to my resolution to not eat any sugar, the gap would have been much narrower. But as so many times before, emotional eating won the battle.
Once on the beach, my daughter shouts from the water. “Mom, please, come and swim with me! Mom, mom, please! Mom!”
“Just give me a few minutes,” I reply, “I first need to scrape some courage together.” If only courage could miraculously replace cellulite and I could scrape if off my thighs…
‘Damn thighs,’ I think as I finally find my way to join her in the water. In my costume. The dreaded moment has arrived and for the next two weeks of this holiday, this is how I will be found on a regular basis. In a costume. On the beach or in the water. With my family. Wait… With my family.
In the water we play with joy. I hold her by the hands as she jumps as each wave hits her. She screams in delight every time it happens. People look our way; I guess it sounds to some as though the screams are coming from a terrified child. But she is not terrified, she is abundantly happy. This is her way of showing it to the world. I could try my best to silence her, but truth be told, I don’t want to. I am here with her and after a while, I find myself screaming in delight with her every time a wave hits.
A while later, I sit quietly and observe the people around me. The same thoughts go through my mind as a year before. I remember thinking back then that I want to write about this. Now a year has passed. I absolutely love watching the women, mostly mothers. In all their shapes, sizes and colours, they are indeed worthy of attention. I watch them as they walk towards the water with their children and others as they play sports of some sort. I watch as they build castles together in the sand and as they laugh and run after their children. If I take my own experience into account and the conversations I have with my friends, I know that each of them has selected their swimming costume with the greatest care. Flaws have to be hidden and assets accentuated. But mostly, we have to feel comfortable in our skin. Skin that has been stretched incredibly while pregnant and shrunk back again afterwards. Bodies that went through the miracle of carrying babies. But I also know that many of us afterwards forget this incredible miracle as we struggle to feel comfortable in our skin again.
The women that I watch are all incredibly beautiful. Each is a model in her own right, a person in her family that leads by example and is imitated by her children. Each is so different from the next and each makes the world around them a more beautiful place. All of them have this in common… They are here, with their families, playing and participating in life. I can imagine, knowing my own struggles, the doubts and struggles of many of them. But the desire to get up and play is more than the urge to sit under an umbrella and hide. And after a while of playing with our children and experiencing their innocent delight in life in general, we forget our own insecurities. It really is the best medicine. There are far more important things, now. All I know is, I am proud to be part of this incredible species.
The men, well, honestly and with the most possible respect? They are really not that striking.
I think back to about a week ago when my friend visited me. She has gained a considerate amount of weight in the past couple of years and now refers to herself unashamedly as ‘fat’. She was recalling a conversation she had with a friend from overseas who observed how little grace my friend had with herself and how South African women in general judged each other ruthlessly. She was standing outside on our veranda, inspecting a hammock-style swing that our kids love to play on. I was making coffee in the kitchen and the children were drawing at the table nearby.
“Is this swing able to carry fat people?” she asked.
“Who’s fat?” my son asked matter-of-factly as he looked at her.
Another friend of mine tells me how her little son bragged to an older uncle the other day, “You know, my mommy has very big boobies!” And I know that it is the last thing she thinks she has!
Another time, I was dressing and my daughter was looking at me silently. The next moment she pointed to my hips and said, “Mommy, I also want lines like that.”
“What lines?” I asked, confused.
“Those white lines!” Still pointing at my hips.
I looked down and all I could see, was the stretch marks. “You mean these ones?” I asked, incredulously.
“Yes!” she said. “They are beautiful!”
These are such innocent moments, showing how our children, who will hopefully be our biggest fans for life, really don’t care about how we look. They will however tell their friends and family one day how their mothers and fathers participated in life with them everywhere they went and how their mothers didn’t hide in a corner somewhere, too ashamed to look the world in the eye. A world, by the way, whose perception of ‘fat’ and ‘beautiful’ leaves much to be desired.
Hence, my decision. This holiday, I will pretend that I am a model as I walk the beach. I hope that all mothers will do the same. I hope that we will celebrate our bodies and life together with our husbands and children. Mind over matter, literally. For what we think, we become. And all those lovely cliches. And never has a truer word been spoken, we are indeed models, and supermodels at that.
So when my son again asks, “Who’s fat?” my answer will be without any doubt, “not me, my son! Definitely not me!” And I will be sure to walk faster as we make our way to the beach.
And that is all I need to know now.