Real. adjective. According to Dictionary.com, “genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic.”
Let’s get real.
Let’s talk about swimsuits.
Ah, yes. Every woman’s favorite topic of conversation when we are in the humid depths of summer.
If you were not aware, the swimsuit is more than just stretchy fabric made to get wet. In the time it takes to glance in a mirror, it can destroy shopping-day moods and inhibit beachy bliss and ignite modesty debates and ruin self-esteem. This is the kind of power I imagine dictators and Satan might like to have.
And I get to practically live in these little instruments of joy all summer. It is among the many perks of being a lifeguard, which include other wonders such as wacky tan lines, rowdy children, and working weekends.
Let’s just say that my self-esteem does not peak during these summer months, when I spend most of my waking hours clad in spandex.
For one thing, there are those horrid athletic swimsuits, the kind I wear for teaching swimming lessons. The tags on these suits may claim “streamlined” or “athletic.” I prefer the more accurate “skin-tight” and “concealing nothing.” Sure, I don’t have to check for wayward straps after catching kids off the diving board or hemlines that have ridden up when I demonstrate a new kick. When you have to say things like “Watch my legs, okay?” on a regular basis, this is something you worry about. But no one has any doubts about the size of my butt or how flat my stomach is, either.
Then there are bikinis, a swimsuit model I have not yet dared to wear publicly. It’s not because of the whole Modesty Rules debate (which is a topic for an entirely different post and a significantly braver blogger). It’s because I don’t think I can pull one off. When trying them on, I can barely sneak out the dressing room to show my sister. It’s doubtful I could bare my belly to the entire flipping world. Or the occupants of my small-town pool. Same thing. I’ll take splashy patterns and clever fabric camouflage over my midsection, thank you very much.
Summer sometimes leaves me wishing for real-life Photoshop, where some magical clicks could erase my imperfections, shave some inches off my thighs, suck some pounds from my belly.
This could be where I outline my new diet and workout plan and promise to post before and after selfies. But it’s not. Because I don’t believe that getting tastefully ripped would solve this problem. My fitness levels have been all over the place; since college, I’ve swung from working out for two hours per day with the basketball team to working out maybe twice a month in my busiest semesters. Through all of this, my attitude about my body barely wavers. Flaws still scream for attention like bossy toddlers, telling me to conceal this and cover that. So I don’t think working out more is the answer.
Instead, I think learning to love my body right now, as it looks at this very second when I’ve eaten too much guacamole, is.
This is such hard work. It’s hard because my belly isn’t firm, my thighs don’t have a gap between them, my butt isn’t perky and cute. It’s hard when I know that I don’t look like the ideal woman, the one concocted by a culture obsessed with slimness and a Photoshop-wielding media. It’s hard when my body is real.
But let’s consider the alternative. With enough professional training (and, let’s be honest, plastic surgery), I could come closer to “perfection,” whatever that means to you. But then the worth of my body would be in how lovely it looked. Its purpose would be to be admired, a sculpture in a gallery rather than a breathing moving, real human being.
I don’t think my body was made to be flawless. I was not manufactured and edited to perfection, meant to be stared at and nothing more. My body was created to do stuff, to have adventures, to work and serve and love and play. It’s supposed to run for multiple miles in a row and hike the Great Wall of China and catch kids leaping into the pool.
When I’m caught up in my swimsuit woes, I’m forgetting that I have a job to do. And that job is not to look flawless; it’s to teach kids to swim and to offer a trustworthy hand and to do what keeps me happy and healthy.
And thankfully I don’t need a sculpted butt and pancake-flat abs to do that.