Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pin-up at 40

I turned forty this year.  It’s a big milestone, and the first one that really makes me feel different.  New medical tests are required, and my body is doing weird things.  Hot flashes.  My old wrist injury aching when it’s going to rain.  Random eyebrow hairs turning silver, growing extra long, and spronging out from my face, like “Look at me!  I’m a gray eyebrow hair! Helllooooooo!! Do you see me?”

I know how that shining, fabulous eyebrow hair feels.  Sometimes you just want to be seen.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to slip quietly under a cloak of invisibility.  I find myself thinking often of that scene from Six Feet Under, in which Kathy Bates teaches Frances Conroy to shoplift, explaining that since they’re invisible as older women anyway, they might as well get free stuff. 

When I’m in my mom uniform, jeans and a basic top, minimal makeup, at the grocery store or the waiting area at dance class, I can feel the slide of eyes.  An older, plus size suburban mom.  Utterly invisible.

The blue hair helps a little.  A genuine smile helps sometimes too.  But I still feel the slide into invisibility.  Middle-aged.  Overweight.  Nothing to see here.

But I’m not gonna go quietly.

I’m 40!  Do you know how freeing that is?  I am the person I’m going to be.  This is me.  Not to say I can’t reinvent myself in another twenty years.  I totally can.  But pretty much, I am who I am, and I know myself pretty well.  This is me.  Crazy, irreverent, boozy, loving, maternal, potty-mouthed, smart, and sexy as hell. 

I get to just be who I am.  Blue hair.  Whiskey blog.  Obsessed with corsets.  I'm forty.  I get to just be that. 

And I don’t have to be invisible if I don’t want to be. 

So here I am.  Forty.  Overweight.  Mom of twins.  Doing pin-up. Because beauty isn’t a number.  It’s not an age or a dress size or a number on the scale.  It doesn’t come from anyone else’s approval.  It comes from inside. 

And I will not go quietly.  Oh, hell to the no.















All photos are by the amazing, extraordinary Rebecca Palmer of Lifescapes Photography.  Also known as best sister ever.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Granny lust


Urban dictionary defines “granny lust” as… wait… urban dictionary doesn’t have an entry for granny lust.  OK, well, a google search reveals that “granny lust” is an expression that means…

Oh my god!  For the love of all that is holy, that is… just… just don’t do that search!  I need to clean my eyeballs with bleach now please.

OK, apparently I am the only person who uses the expression granny lust to mean something other than a preference for older ladies who can still fit too many… um… in their… um…

So.

Fine, then, Pam-a-rama ding dong defines “granny lust” as the strong desire to have a grandbaby.  Similar to baby lust (the desire to have a baby), but without actually wanting to, you know, have a baby.

Here’s what’s been happening.  A bunch of my contemporaries are procreating.  I’m 40.  We should be done with that malarkey by now, no?  But apparently no, because two of my college friends and one grad school friend have had kiddos in the past year or so.  Their older kids were old enough to be in the sweet zone.  The no longer diapers/not yet drugs sweet zone.

Why would they mess with that little slice of heaven by popping out a new one?

Well, I know why.  It’s happening to me too.  My twins are six.  I’m thrilled with their current stage.  Six is magical.  They can do things on their own.  Their minds are amusing and fascinating and wonderful.  They still believe in Santa and the tooth fairy, but are old enough to ask logical questions about it, or make up elaborate scenarios to justify their continued belief in the face of logistic breakdown.  They are amazing right now, and I could not love them more.

But then I see a one-year-old—that uneven toddle, a pretzel-crumbed mouth or sparkly-eyed giggle, the way they race headlong, letting inertia carry them while their legs struggle to keep up.  Or god forbid I smell a newborn baby head.  I can literally feel my ovaries popping out four eggs.  OK, not literally-literally.  But there is truly a physical sensation in my lower abdomen when I huff a baby head.

But I don’t want another baby. 

That thing about popping out four eggs?  I’m not kidding about that shit.  I had spontaneous twins, which means I didn’t do fertility or anything.  I just popped out two eggs instead of one.  Oops. 

My body was all, oh, you’re not using these things?  OK, then I’ll just dump em all out en masse before they go bad.  Like making omelets for dinner when the eggs get too close to expiring.  Except instead of omelets, it’s a litter of children suddenly jockeying for space with my bladder and winning, stretching my skin beyond repair, and making a comfy, smushy hammock out of my pelvic floor. 

Honestly, if I thought I could have one baby, I might be tempted.  But faced with the knowledge that my body is throwing eggs like a Jersey kid on Mischief Night, hell to the no.

So instead, I have decided to interpret my desire for a baby as, not baby lust, but granny lust.  If I had lived in another time in history, or if the wrong condom had broken back in the day, I could have a twenty-year-old kid right now.  Instead, I waited until I was done with grad school and had my babies at age 34. 

But my body doesn’t know that.

It’s starting the elaborate shut down of the hormone factory, if my erratic use of the thermostat and general bitchiness are any indication.  My body thinks I’m almost ready to be a grandmother.  It doesn’t know my kids are only six.

So I guess I’ll have to settle for being the crazy auntie for now.  Now someone bring me a baby to sniff.  I need a fix.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Humanity at the grocery store


I kind of love the grocery store.  The DMV.  The post office a week before Christmas.  I have a weird affinity for places full of unconscious, not-happy people stuck in their own minds.  Because you know what those places are?  A chance to practice mindfulness.  And a chance to find connection. 

It’s easy to be mindful in a yoga class or meditating next to a stream or whatever.  (Well, not easy, but relatively easier).  Being mindful at the grocery store is harder.  But guess what.  I spend a hell of a lot more time at the grocery store than I do sitting next to a stream in the forest in a flowing white dress with daisies braided into my hair. 

So the grocery store it is then. It’s one of my primary meditation places. 

It doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes I’m in my own head, stressed about work, in a hurry, upset about some interpersonal incident, wrapped up in thinking about the past or worrying about the future.  Sometimes my kids are with me, and I would have to be a friggin’ Zen master to be all chill and mindful while they’re touching the filthy floor, bumping into people, or fighting loudly over who touched whom first. 

But most of the time, it happens.  I walk into the store, hang my bags from the handle of the shopping cart, pull out my list (compulsively organized by aisle), take a breath, and slide into the zone. 

In that space, I often smile at strangers.  I offer the opportunity to connect.  Sometimes people misunderstand and think I’m flirting.  I’m not.  I’m just present, and gently inviting presence in anyone else who wants to go there with me.  Many people want to, way more people than you would think.  They just needed the eye contact or the smile to snap out of the lonely auto-pilot world they had been in. 

I wind up having conversations with strangers all the time, and many of the people who work in my grocery store are not strangers anymore. 

This past weekend, I was in the produce section, going down my list.  I had picked up another few bottles of kombucha, a fermented probiotic tea that I have been experimenting with to see if it can help with my sensitive stomach and maybe my mood.  I’m not that much of a hippie, despite all of this mindfulness talk.  I just don’t particularly like yogurt or any of the “normal” probiotic stuff, so I’m seeing whether kombucha is a suitable alternative for me. 

I saw a guy looking at the ingredients on a bottle of green kombucha. 

I finished my spin through the produce section, and he was still there, looking at the same bottle of kombucha.  Now I have tried all of the brands offered at that store, and most of the flavors by each brand.  Some are better than others.  This green stuff is the only one I poured down the drain.  Ick. 

I went over to him, “Have you had that before?”

He looked up, “No.”

“Just a warning,” I said, “that flavor is pretty gross-tasting.  But all of the ones with ginger from that company are good.”

I smiled.

And he gave me the absolute nastiest look, put the bottle in his cart, and walked away.

What the hell, dude?

I don’t know what the hell.  Maybe he thought I was flirting and couldn’t believe someone that much older and less hot than him thought she was in his league.  Maybe he’s really into the taste of blue-green algae and spirulina (blech).  Maybe he thought it was none of my damn business.  Maybe he just saw a fat woman and assumed that I think kombucha is a kind of soda to drink with my bacon cupcakes and deep fried twinkies, or whatever it is he imagines people like me eat.

Whatever his thought process, what a buzzkill.  I wandered over to the deli counter in a funk of social anxiety. 

I talk too much to strangers.  Why don’t I just shut the hell up and shop like everyone else?  No one wants to be friendly at the grocery store, and it’s none of my business what kombucha some random dude is buying.  Why did I open my stupid mouth?

I got to the deli counter, second in line after a different guy.  When the employee asked who was next, the guy in front of me said he was still looking, so I ordered my first item.  After a minute, he had clearly decided what he wanted, but I still had a bunch more stuff to get.

I asked the guy who had been at the counter first if he only had one thing to get.  He said yes, so I told him to go ahead.  I smiled and made eye contact.  He smiled back and thanked me. 

Screw you, green kombucha guy, I thought.  I will not allow you to mess with my grocery store Zen mojo.

As my reward for letting that guy go ahead of me, my favorite deli slicing employee came out from the back.  She saw me, and her face broke out in a smile. She told me how she was having the worst day, and how I always seem to show up when she’s frazzled to make her feel better. 

And then she came out from behind the counter and gave me a hug.

I almost got teary, just a little.  She was a bit emotional too.  I don’t know what all was going on for her, or why she needed that hug.  She was at work, and I was a customer, and it wasn’t appropriate to get into it with other people waiting for ham and turkey and whatnot.  But we crossed a line from transient human contact into something more in that moment, and it felt really good.

The moment passed, and I ordered my next item, feeling a little weird about having her wait on me after the lovely and fundamentally real thing we had just shared.

Another woman next to me, there with her kid, made eye contact with me and smiled.  She said, “I remember you.  I’ve been here when you were here before.  Did your hair used to have reddish-purple stripes instead of blue?”

I told her that it had, silently impressed that she remembered me, since the purple stripes were almost a year ago.

She asked me some questions about how long I keep my deli meat before tossing it, and we chatted for a minute.  It didn’t matter what we talked about.  She wanted in the bubble, the bubble of genuine human contact.  It was my pleasure to oblige.

The world can be a lonely place sometimes. 

But it doesn’t have to be. 


Monday, December 2, 2013

A tattoo at 40


So I’ve been planning my next tattoo, a hummingbird and flowers on my shoulder, in honor of the hummingbird that flew into my house this past spring and taught me about getting myself out of depression

I remember stressing and deliberating over my first tattoo: a Celtic knotwork, moon phase, yin-yang-ish creation that I designed myself.  I got it on my lower back.  I was twenty-five, and there was no such a thing as a “tramp stamp” yet back then.  I remember being so bummed when those tattoos first became known as tramp stamps.  But it was OK, because my tattoo had meaning to me, and it was something I had designed myself.  And, I was also really glad I hadn’t gotten a butterfly tramp stamp, because that totally could have happened.

I remember sitting on that first tattoo design for a year after I drew it, waiting to make sure I wasn’t going to change my mind.  At twenty-five, it seemed like a huge commitment to get something permanently drawn onto my body. 

My friends all got together and pitched in to pay for that tattoo for my twenty-fifth birthday.  I was so touched by that, both because it felt like my community was supporting the spiritual commitment that the tattoo represented for me, and because I was living on a grad student stipend at the time and had exactly zero disposable income.

The process itself wasn’t unpleasant.  I have a very strong endorphin response to pain, so apart from the initial flinch, and a few extra-ouchy spots, I actually kind of enjoyed it.  I know, I’m weird.  I left the shop high on free brain chemicals, and totally ready to get another tattoo. 

And fifteen years went by.

I wanted more tattoos, but I wasn’t willing to get something purely for aesthetic reasons.  Then my kids were born, and I was like, “Yay!  Kids!  I will always love them, so I can totally get a kid-based tattoo!”

But I didn’t.

It felt wrong for me.  It’s right for a lot of people, but a kid-based tattoo just wasn’t right for me. 

I couldn’t figure out why.  I mean, of all the things I can make an unquestioning absolute lifelong commitment to, obviously my kids top the list.  Why didn’t I want some symbol of them inked into my bod?  I seriously considered a kid-based, mama goddess type tattoo on my stomach.  A reclaiming of the extra skin and stretch marks that so challenged me, a beautification something that was no longer beautiful by societal standards, a celebration of the part of my body that housed and nourished my kids. 

But nope.  My soul or my intuition or whatever it is that makes these decisions knew that wasn’t my next tattoo.  It was right on paper, but it wasn’t right for me.

I was bummed.  I had to keep waiting to get my second tattoo.  Crap.

In time I’ve come to realize why it was wrong for me.  Because I don’t need a reminder that I have kids.  That connection doesn’t need strengthening.  It’s already as strong as it can be.  I don’t need to reinforce that bond.  It’s already unbreakable. 

My tattoos are about making a commitment to something in such a permanent way that I will never forget.  Like a reminder to maintain balance, the knowledge that darkness is just part of a cycle and will give way to light, and that sadness can be accepted and acknowledged in the same way that joy can, without judgment or attachment.  That was my first tattoo.  Or the awareness that bliss is always within my reach.  If my patterns aren’t working, I need to try something else.  The doorway is there, I just have to find it, and it’s probably outside in nature, not on my couch.  That will be my second tattoo.

My children have already permanently marked my body.  I don’t need more.  They are already in the front of my mind most of the time.  I don’t need a reminder.  I need balance.  Something that is just for me.  This next tattoo will be that.

I’m 40.  And I’m finally getting my second tattoo, fifteen years after my first.  I still need to set up a consultation and work out the details, but I’ve crossed the critical threshold and made the decision. 

It was so much easier this time around.  Last time, I made sure it would be on a part of my body that was generally covered by clothes, because at 25, I had no idea where my life would lead.  Maybe I would have the kind of life in which a visible tattoo would be a problem at some point. 

Now I’m 40.  And I just don’t give a crap.  If there is a job or a situation or a person that wouldn’t be cool with a visible tattoo on my shoulder, they can go do anatomically unlikely things to themselves.  It’s so freeing to feel that way. 

There is a down side to not giving a crap, like when I stop doing self-care and stop showing respect for myself because I feel like I’m an invisible middle-aged woman, so what difference does it make.  But the up side is that I can do whatever I want.  I can get my nose pierced if I feel like it, even though my nose is “too big” for that.  I can get a big tattoo somewhere that will show in an evening gown.  I can have ridiculous blue hair if it makes me happy.  Wheeeee!

I know I’ll continue to change.  Fifteen years from now, no doubt I will be fifteen years more fabulous than I am right now.  I look back on my twenty-five-year-old self and she was so full of illusions, so romantic, so insecure, so shy, so worried… Also her boobs were so, so very high up.  And she was lovely.  I wish I could go back and tell her to stop worrying about her body, stop worrying about what people think.

So I’m sending my 55-year-old self back right now to tell me that.  Stop worrying.  You’re great.  Get a big damn visible tattoo, because you can and you want to.  You're beautiful.  Also, get off the couch and exercise, you lazy sack, and go to the dentist.  Stop putting that off.  But mostly, you're beautiful. Don't worry what anyone else thinks.  Just live, as big as you want to.

Live.  As big as you want to.

Because this is it.  This is what we get.  Now and now and now and now. 

Fly out that open door into the beautiful universe and live.

Live.




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"That mom"


Hi, my name is Pam, and I am “that mom.”

Let me back up a little.  My twins are in first grade this year, and they are doing great.  I love both of their homeroom teachers, and am thrilled with how much they are learning in general.  But first grade in our school is the start of “tracking” in math.  At the start of the year, they were assessed and put into groups based on that assessment.  We were told the groups would be flexible. 

Which, it turns out, was a big effing lie.

My daughter is pretty much the kid every teacher wants in their class.  She’s smart, listens quietly, raises her hand, tries her best, writes neatly, all of that good school-y stuff.  My son is also very smart, but has a certain tendency to miss instructions because he was thinking about something else, drop his folders on the floor, forget to bring home his spelling words, or glue them in his folder upside down.  He’s an awesome kid in a million ways, but not exactly a kid for whom the structure of school is a perfect fit.

I’m fine with both of those things, and neither came as a surprise.  My kiddos came out of the womb with those personalities. 

My son, although he was more advanced in math at the start of the year than my daughter was, tested into a lower math group.  He probably had a hangnail during the assessment and really needed to bite it off before he could focus.  Or something. 

I waited, imagining it would self-correct with the flexible groupings they talked about.  It didn’t.  I sent a few e-mails, but was told I had to wait until the end of the quarter.  I didn’t want to be “that mom,” so I waited.

I waited and watched my daughter learn all sorts of new things, while my son didn’t.  At the start of the year, I had to constantly remind him not to tell her the answers on her homework because it was so easy for him.   (His own homework was done in seconds, being too easy by an even wider margin.)  By the end of the quarter, he had no idea what she was doing because he wasn’t learning that stuff.  So it wasn’t a huge shock to find out that he didn’t place into the higher class on the new assessment.  How could he?  He hadn’t been taught anything new.

I asked his teacher at one point what skills he was missing that we could work on at home.  She told me that he needed to focus more and “learn to organize his school supplies.” 

That’s fair, I guess.  He does need to learn to focus and get organized.  Those are important school skills.  But if we wait to challenge him in math until he learns to be organized and focus on boring things, well, he might still be learning 3+4 when he’s in high school.  I’m just saying.

So now I’m setting up a meeting with his math teacher and I’m ready to face my fear of being “that mom.”

You know, that mom.  The competitive one who thinks her kids poop rainbows.  The one who makes trouble.

There are probably a lot of those moms at my kids’ school.  It’s a high power school district and crazy competitive.  It feeds into blue ribbon middle and high schools.  People have loads of money.  In fact, the first grade is 25% larger than the kindergarten was because so many people sent their kindergarteners to private school to give them an edge. 

I’m like, dude, people, chill.  It’s first grade, man.  It’s only first grade!

And then I’m like, dude, Pam, chill.  It’s only first grade.

Except.

Except.

Except I’m watching one of my kids learn and one of them not learn.  Except I have seen the light of pride on my son’s face when he solves a difficult math problem at home and I want that for him at school.  Except that I sat in his math class yesterday and could see that he was bored out of his skull and I couldn’t blame him.  I watched him pull himself back to attention and then fade, pull himself back to attention and then fade, as they did problem after problem that he could easily solve in his head.  Except that I know that the inertia of this math placement will only get more and more solid as time goes on and tracks become deep ruts.

So I’m going to march my butt in there and risk being that mom.

My fear of being that mom, of being seen a certain way by teachers, of getting a bad reputation, kept me from doing what was right for my kid a month into school. 

Fuck that.  Done with that fear. 

I am that mom. 

That mom who advocates for her kids’ education.  That mom who doesn’t care whether or not the teacher likes me. That mom who they’d better not mess with.

I am that mom.

That mom who loves her children fiercely.  That mom who will do everything she can to keep them from wasting time in school.  Because if they’re not going to be here hanging with me—playing outside, chilling in PJs, making music, snuggling—they had damn well better be learning stuff.  That mom who wants to make sure that all of the doors and opportunities stay open for my kids as long as possible.

I am that mom.  And I will do anything for my kids.  So buckle up, teachers.  


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Too old for blue hair?


I have a big birthday coming up.  Yup, in less than a month I’ll be forty for real.  Now, I refer to myself as a “forty year old woman” all the time, or as pushing forty, but soon I will actually BE forty.  In a complete vacuum, I would be fine with it.  Just a number and all that.  I’m vaguely prepared for shit to start breaking on my body, but I can still do stuff I want to do. 

I have a bad knee from a fall two years ago, so I have learned (for the first time in my life!!) how to do squats properly.  Seriously, no one ever told me to think about sticking my butt back instead of focusing on bending my knees.  Why did no one ever tell me that?  They would say “don’t let your knees go in front of your toes,” but never explained that the way you do that is by pretending you’re dropping a deuce and trying not to get it on your shoes.  But now I have a bad knee, so now I know.  Still, I can still exercise just fine, and nothing else has broken down yet.  I don’t need cheater glasses to read yet, although threading a needle is starting to become an issue.  Maybe I need some of those old lady needle threader thingies.

Oh, and perimenopause is happening.  So, that blows.  Hot flashes, night sweats, and a raging bitch who inhabits my body from time to time.  But whatev.  Some black cohosh, a few extra showers, and control of the thermostat.  I’m dealing.

But the social stuff is harder.

See, since my kids were born, I have been dying my hair funny colors.  Fire engine red, pink, teal, most recently blue.  Here is me with my blue hair.

Not crazy blue, but definitely bluer than anyone else's hair at my kids' elementary school...

It’s not really all that blue.  It’s not like Thing 1 and Thing 2 blue.  It’s just… you know… kind of blue. 

Recently my brother told me my blue hair is ridiculous, because I’m too old for it and I’m a mom.  But the thing is, I never dyed my hair funny colors before I had kids.  I didn’t need to.  I was going to Burning Man and attending parties that started at 11pm and traveling the world. But then I moved to the suburbs and had twins and bought a minivan.  My body, although the same weight as it was pre-kids, was a new shape.  A more… mommish shape.  I was pushing a double stroller, and wearing yoga pants as regular pants, and my fabulous heels were all a half size too small, and I might have had puke on me at any given moment.  I needed something to remind me that I was still me.  So I started messing with my hair.

And I loved it.  I still love it.  But now with forty looming, I am starting to worry about what other people will think.  Am I too old to have blue hair? 

I embrace my mom persona at this point, and now that my kids are in school, they are less all-encompassing, so I can pursue things that make me feel like me again.  I don’t need crazy hair anymore to remind me who I am.  But I still want to keep it. 

The biggest reason is that I like how people respond to me.  People are friendlier, chattier.  Toll takers, fast food drive-thru window workers, random people in the service industry… I can see them snap out of auto-pilot and make eye contact with me in a way that didn’t happen before.  Random strangers talk to me on the street, primarily people who are NOT like me.  Kids talk to me about my hair, asking why it’s blue.  Twenty-somethings who would otherwise look through me as if I were invisible, compliment it and smile, sometimes leading into a longer conversation. 

As weird as it seems, I have many more conversations with strangers as a function of my blue hair, and I love that.  I love finding a connection where there would otherwise be two people on autopilot, just playing roles and not seeing each other at all. 

In fact, the very fact that blue hair is wrong for "a woman my age" is the thing that’s magic about it.  Because it marks me as something other than generic.  Not for my own self-image anymore, even though that was the primary reason I started doing it.  But now, because it makes other people stop for a moment to figure me out.  And in that moment of stopping, there is the opportunity for genuine connection. 

Genuine connection. 

Genuine connection.

My blue hair might be silly.  It is silly.  It’s blue hair on a middle-aged mom.  It’s ridiculous.  And I’m totally keeping it.


Because also? I just like it.  



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The bikini experiment, two years later


Since the bikini experiment of summer 2011, I have only worn bikinis to swim.  Every swimsuit I have bought or worn for two years has been a bikini.  Wearing a bikini has become a few things for me:  A symbol of my continuing commitment to unconditional self-love, a touchstone for my self-image, and my own little revolutionary act.  I want to be a living example that body love, confidence, and beauty don’t have a weight limit.  Be the change and all of that.  I have a “Be the change you wish to see in the world” window cling on my driver-side minivan door as a daily reminder that we are part of making the world we live in.  I wear a bikini because I want women who worry about their bodies to see me, and worry a little bit less.  I want curvy, large-busted, and plus-size women to see that they have options (Fantasie bra-sized bikinis!)  And, more selfishly, I want to make sure I don’t slide back down into blending in and trying to hide. 

I actually thought I was done.  I thought I had climbed the self-love mountain.  I thought I had arrived somewhere.  Turns out, there’s more to this journey. 

Here’s what happened.  My kids were invited to a swim party. 

To set the scene for this story, let me tell you a little bit about the area where I live.  It’s in suburban Maryland, one of the best school districts in the country, and typically listed as the top 10 “affluent” places to live.  We chose our house because we fell in love with the openness of it and the schools were amazing.  Our immediate neighborhood is racially diverse, which was important to me, and the houses were all built at different times by different builders, carved with restraint out of the woods a plot at a time without strip-mining the place to build a development.  I saw that our income and home price fell well below the median for our school district, and my thought was, “Awesome.  Let their property taxes pay for my kids to go to a kick-ass school.” 

And now my kids go to that school.  And the school rocks.  No lie, it’s awesome. And there are some people like me there.  But there are way more people not-like-me.  Diamonds are big.  Countertops are granite.  Hair is blonde and smooth.  Sometimes brown.  Not blue.  People aren’t fat here.  It’s not allowed.  If you’re fat, you run half marathons or go to “boot camps” until you’re not fat anymore.  You post your exercise on facebook using an app on your phone, and eat lots of skinless chicken and salads. 

So into this weird world, my kids were invited to a swim party.

It was their second one actually.  After much deliberation and gnashing of teeth, I wore my bikini under a dress to the first swim party earlier this summer, but no parents swam at that party, so my jiggling, winter-white, abundant self was kept under wraps.  No other parents swam at this last party either.  Except for me. 

We arrived at the pool, and the parents were all standing around, fully dressed.  I breathed a sigh of relief, realizing I wouldn’t have to expose the bikini to them at this party either.  Or expose what the bikini doesn’t cover.  My daughter immediately started begging me to swim with them.  I showed her that none of the mommies were swimming, and encouraged her to go play.  She did.  But she kept asking.  And the only reason I said no was body shame.  Shit.

What would they think?  Would they think that I thought I looked good?  Would they gossip about me later? 

(I do know that no, of course they wouldn’t gossip about me later.  I know with my brain that this isn’t about them at all.  This is my stuff.  Social anxiety is such a narcissistic asshole.)

Anyway, a bunch of the kids moved to an indoor heated pool, one with a fairly steep drop-off with water over my kids’ heads.  My daughter can swim.  My son can’t really.  Both begged me to come in with them. 

So I did. 

I took off my skirt and seriously considered leaving my tank top on.  But I didn’t.  I took it off and I swam with my kids, while all of the other moms stood around fully dressed with their coiffed ponytails.  When I put my hair in a ponytail, it doesn’t look like that.  I think maybe you have to blow dry or hot roller your hair first to have it look like that in a ponytail, and if you’re going to go to all that trouble, why wouldn’t you just wear it down?  It’s all a mystery to me.  But my kids asked me to swim with them, and my son kind of needed me to swim with them.  So I swam.  In a black bikini.  At 220 pounds.  My son practiced his back float.  My daughter practiced her freestyle side breathing, backstroke, and flip turns. 

I didn’t die.

Not too long after, they moved the party inside to a party room.  I put on my clothes, gratefully, even though my wet bathing suit left two wet spots under my boobs and I couldn’t sit down for fear of also having a wet ass.  I said something to two of the moms about the bikini thing.  I explained about the blog and how I am a body-love advocate.  I explained because, if they gossiped about me later, I wanted at least a couple of people to be able to explain why on earth I was wearing a bikini.  At my size.  One mom nodded politely.  Kill me.  The other mom looked thoughtful and gave me a smile and a high five.  Gratitude.

Be the change be the change be the change.  Fuck.  It’s so hard sometimes.

I’ve gotten to the top of one mountain.  I look in the mirror and I’m happy most of the time.  I wear bikinis.  I am the change inside myself.  I love my body.  I think I’m beautiful. 

But there’s a new mountain.  One made of class distinction and baggage from high school and fear that a weird mom with blue hair who wears bikinis at 220 pounds will somehow stigmatize or marginalize my kids.  The change I wish for is happening in the world too, but slowly.  For that change to come, people like me need to stand up and be seen.  Even when it's hard.  Especially when it's hard. That thoughtful high five, that's the change.  I stand for something, something I believe in very deeply.  I hope that one day, that will be a good thing in my kids’ lives.  I hope that I am one voice among many working to change the world they will inherit.  I accept that one day, probably sooner than I can imagine, they will want me to blend in.

I hope I don’t cave.