One of the perks available through our homeowners association is a pool. Even though it’s outdoors, there were plenty of hot, sunny days last summer that were perfect for a dip in its cool waters.
I’ve never been in that pool.
When we moved here over a year ago, I stashed my black one-piece swimsuit in a drawer with my nylons. It’s been languishing like that for years. The last time I wore it was to swim laps at the University of New Mexico aquatic center. Since I dropped out from grad school and moved from Albuquerque a decade ago, it’s fair to say the suit is old.
I haven’t bothered trying it on again. This winter, my increasingly snug pants began leaving red marks on my waistline. By spring, my button up shirts began bulging open to expose my bra. I bought the swimsuit in the maternity section to accommodate a non-pregnant girth, but it still doesn’t have enough material to contain my expanding waistline. Finding out how I look in it now would be unpleasant.
I’m tempted to live the rest of my life pool-free just to avoid confronting my increased mass. Sure, thanks to all those YMCA lessons, I’m a good swimmer. Swimming is easy on the joints and great exercise. Floating in the water as if I’m weightless feels fantastic. None of those positives can counteract that I don’t like my body and don’t want others to see it in all its pudgy glory.
That would be the end of the story were it not for my son. Philip adores water. He splashes in the sink. He kicks in the bath tub. He pours water in his plastic wading pool. He loves playing with water so much that the source is of no consequence to him: stagnant rain water in his sandbox, puddles shiny with oil in store parking lots, the toilet. This child is meant for water. Is it because he is autistic? Maybe. Does that matter? Not at all.
What matters is that my fat ass and even fatter brain have to get past my issues to do what’s best for Philip. That’s why I went shopping last week. In the years since I bought that maternity suit, my swimwear options improved. There were two-piece suits that allow one to mix and match the sizes of tops and bottoms. There were swim shorts that alleviate all of those shaving issues “down there.” I spent two hours at two stores eliminating plunging necklines, unreliable tie straps, awkward cup designs and unflattering patterns. I left with a one-piece swim skirt in a size larger than I have ever purchased before.
I felt overexposed wearing the suit in front of the dressing room mirror. I could see every flaw: jiggly underarms, dimpled thighs, the roll in my midsection. The bright blue color wasn’t my first choice and the larger size bothered me, too. I bought it anyway. Once I’m in the pool with Philip, no one will see. The water should be deep enough to hide all my imperfections. Besides, even when I’m in the shallow end, no one will know what size my suit is. No one is waiting at the pool on the off-chance that I will be there providing them the opportunity to judge me. No one else gives a damn.
It’s time for me to stop wallowing in this body image bullshit and start wading in the pool with my son.