I don’t know if anyone noticed, but last week we had a bit of a heat wave here in Britain! For over a week, we were all ROASTING and while at the minute the sunshine has taken his hat off and the clouds are back, I’m hoping that we’ll see at least another couple of sunny weeks before summer 2017 is over.
And here’s the thing – Even the fact the fact that I wrote that last sentence is nothing short of miraculous because for most of my life, just the mention of a heat wave would have sent me headlong into a spiral of panic and dread. I’d have panicked about my sweaty face, chaffing thighs, exposed bingo wings and I’d have spent the long, sunny days beating myself up for having failed to achieve the perfect body for yet another summer.
I’ve lived in Cornwall for the last 17 years and while I love walking on the beaches with my two dogs, I have definitely not made the most of that idyllic, picture perfect “beachy” way of life. Hot summer days and dips in the sea have never really been my thing because I have always done such a great job of convincing myself that I wasn’t invited to the party because of the way my body looks. In my mind, the beach life was strictly for the beautiful people only.
But then last week’s heatwave happened and the sun was inescapable. The garden was too damn hot, the kids were over excited and the husband was dead keen because the surf was good. So without too much hesitation, we resolved to spend as much of the weekend as possible at the beach (or 5 different beaches as it turned out!) and right there and then, I decided that I was going to dig out my bathers and go swimming in the sea with my children.
As I stepped out of my sun dress and on to the sand, I took a look around me and was hit by the fact that I was surrounded by hundreds of COMPLETELY different bodies. Tall ones, short ones, thin ones, fat ones, taut ones, wobbly ones, stocky ones, willowy ones, old ones, young ones, scarred ones, blotchy ones, lumpy ones, black ones, white ones, red ones, big boobs, big bums, pear shapes, apple shapes….. It was a truly phenomenal sight!
Now maybe it’s always been this way, but I can honestly say it’s never struck me quite so dramatically before. Why? Well I guess it might be because I’ve been so damn busy stressing out about my own wobbly bits, feeling hot and uncomfortable and trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to cover my imperfections, that I’ve not really had the time to notice everyone else.
What has changed this year? Well……me! And when I say me, I mean my mindset, NOT my body. I am not suddenly the taut size 10 I once dreamed of being. I am still the wobbly size 16 that my body seems to have settled at since I ditched the diets a couple of years ago. But, a few things have occurred to me which encouraged me to unleash my tankini on the beaches of Cornwall so I thought it might be worth sharing them.
- Bikini/beach bodies are bullshit.
I mean seriously bullshit. In fact, as I sat on the beach last weekend I spotted one woman who could have legitimately featured in a bikini body magazine spread. ONE!!!!! There were HUNDREDS of scantily clad women on the beach and only one actually looked the way the media has brainwashed us into thinking we need to look if we want to spend the summer on the beach!
- I’m angry
Angry at the media, but mostly angry at myself because I’ve allowed myself to be brainwashed. I was so busy believing what I was being told and being seduced by the airbrushed pictures I was seeing that I didn’t take a minute to look around me and think about it in real terms. Of course bikini bodies aren’t real. Hell, not even the models used in the campaigns look as good as the finished images that appear in the magazines!
- I have a duty
A duty to my children to prove that my body has just as much right to be on the beach as anyone else’s because that’s exactly the sort of thing I want my kids to remember when they grow up. I want my daughter to see a woman who doesn’t flinch at peeling off her dress and parading her wobbly, dimpled thighs proudly into the sea so she can jump and splash and cool off with her two precious children. And while I’m at it, I also have a duty to others. In fact, I really hope that there were some women staring at my body last weekend! Not because I’m some sort of exhibitionist, but because I would love to think that by seeing me having fun in the sea with my husband and kids, it might have encouraged someone else to get her swim suit on when maybe she’s not had the confidence to strip off in public before.
- I want to have fun
I am not prepared to miss out on any more fun with my children because I’m too busy apologising for not being the right shape or size. This is my body. It’s the only one I’ve got, just as this is the only time I’ve got to enjoy my children’s childhood and to create happy memories that I pray they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. Life is too damn short to spend any more of it sitting on the sidelines while everyone else has all the fun!
So I say it’s time for all of us to stick two fingers up at the “bikini body” lie and reclaim our right to beach life. Do you know what? When you dip your toe in the water, amazing things can start to happen!