Yesterday, a bathing suit arrived in the mail. It’s an elegant little number: a charcoal gray one-piece with a halter top and a plunging neckline. Oh, and a lot of ruching.
Like many women of a certain age who have popped out a kid or two, I have resigned myself to the presence of ruching in my life. In addition to sensible flats and yoga pants, a ruched bathing suit is an essential component of the mom wardrobe.
Not so many years ago, my bathing suits consisted of a few triangles of fabric held together with string. Now they are complex, highly engineered structures designed to squish certain “problem areas” into submission while cunningly distracting from others with ruffles, skirts, geometric patterns, and the ubiquitous ruching.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these tactics are not fooling anybody. I don’t think anyone is saying, “I can’t be sure what is underneath all those ruffles and zigzags, but I bet it’s a perfectly toned six-pack.” But this is OK, because I’m not looking for a suit that works miracles. I just need one that will allow me to take my kids to the pool without succumbing to a breakdown afterward.
I am exaggerating (slightly) for effect. I know that we’re not supposed to criticize our bodies. In fact, the current climate demands that we not only accept our flaws but celebrate them. And share them on Instagram!
Look, I don’t hate my body. I could stand to lose 10 pounds (OK, 15), and spider veins are making a subway map out of my legs, but it’s not the end of the world. Still, I can’t say that I “love” my flaws. I do love the two children who came out of my body, and I love my body for having produced them.
But I still struggle just a little bit. Standing in front of the mirror with my new bathing suit on yesterday was a humbling experience, one that, at another time in my life, might have provoked some tears. But one of the many perks of being a mom is the ability to stop giving a shit about things that just don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
This was the gist of what I was saying to my dermatologist a couple of weeks ago, when I went for my annual checkup. I was naked except for my underwear and a paper sheet, and because I was feeling a bit vulnerable and, well, exposed, I suppose I was trying to sound extra confident.
“Well, good for you!” the dermatologist replied, and I smiled. But when she left the room all I could think was that “Good for you” is a sentiment that usually pops into my mind when I see an out-of-shape jogger shuffling and panting on the side of the road. Kind of like “Bless your heart,” it is condescension disguised as kindness.* And I realized: I am that out-of-shape jogger. Except I don’t even jog. Those guys are way ahead of me.
At some point soon, I will get it together. I will exercise more and eat less. I will become one of the joggers panting on the side of the road. Until then I will try to make peace with my body as it is now. I will strip down to my suit with as much confidence as I can muster, and I will get into the pool with my children. But I will respectfully decline to celebrate the things that are hiding underneath the ruching. And that’s OK.
*Please know that I am not accusing my dermatologist of meanness. She is a lovely woman, and I am a person who (clearly) overthinks things. Also, I AM THE MEAN ONE for thinking those things about the joggers. Internet, do not judge me harshly for I have already judged myself.