It seems every billboard or ad I see is screaming about: “Get Back in Shape for Bikini Season!” or, “Your Summer Wardrobe – What Every Woman Needs!” Those ads fill me with anxiety and dread. “Oh God! I am not working on my summer body!” I say silently as I drive home eating my daughter’s leftover Fig Newtons from her school lunch. Or I wonder (as I troll internet shopping sites when I should be working), “Am I too old to wear shorts and high heels?”
In retrospect, I realize I spent the first part of my adulthood worrying about being too fat, and now that I am in the second part I am worrying about being too old, different lyrics, same tune. What’s wrong here?
The first part (before my legs melted like candlesticks and my face started falling off my face) when I was in my late teens, 20 and 30’s my body was slightly bigger than the ideal except for those years I was anorexic and bulimic, then I really had the size thing down. Of course my period stopped but who cares about such things when you can fit into a size 25 jeans?
I gauged every year, every era and every trip I took by how thin I was. “Oh I loved that trip to Mexico. I weighed 118.” “Oh, Ireland was awful, I weighed 150.” When I was twenty-two, I took a trip to St. Barth’s with my boyfriend (who later became my husband). We had a wonderful time sans a wicked bladder infection and ruthless insomnia. We ate bread, cheese and chocolate and drank wine until the wee hours. We got cool French cigarettes and smoked them out in the gravel parking lot of our weird cheap hotel. But what I really remember from the trip were the photos. I was running around topless in a Jane Fonda workout thong. My boyfriend snapped away as I frolicked in the waves. I thought I looked like Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon, but when the pictures came back I looked like Honey Boo Boo in bright pink butt floss. I was devastated and humiliated, “Cover that shit up!” I thought to myself, “Have you no shame?”
Years later, I was sitting in a hairdresser’s chair on a movie getting ready for a day of shooting. I was cataloging my facial faults: my lips are too thin, my face is too long, my teeth are so big that my smile looks like a monkey’s attack face, blah, blah, blah. This wonderful hairdresser, who works with all the HUGE STARS, turned to me and said: “I have had some of the most beautiful women in my chair, and none of them, not a SINGLE ONE, ever felt beautiful. Not one of them enjoyed or appreciated what she had.” That sentence has stayed with me.
So, now the complaint is my body is too old. And as far as I know that’s not negotiable. I can’t go on a diet and “get young.” And, as my husband comfortingly told me, “it’s only going to get worse.” I am not sure what the answer is, but it does make me sad that I have spent my life regretting what is NOW.
So, back to the question at hand, what will I wear this bathing suit season? There is always my old standby: The Bhurkini: knee length swim skirt, turtleneck rash guard and sunhat the size of a large pizza? Or maybe I should follow the lead of elderly French women who have the guts to rock bikinis at 70 and 80 – wrinkles and floppy skin be damned!
The answer is neither, but recently I found a fashion staple that if added to my wardrobe might lead me out self-loathing and into self-care. It wasn’t in Cosmo or Vogue, but on Facebook written by one of my hero’s (who I talk about a lot), Mary Oliver. She writes:
“I accidentally forgot to starve myself in December, or to go back to the gym, which I’ve been meaning to do since I had a child, 24 years ago…I can still get my jeans on, for one reason: I wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough self-esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act.”
Yeah!! That’s what my summer wardrobe is going to consist of: FORGIVING PANTS! Actually, I want a whole wardrobe of FORGIVENESS. Maybe if I can get this concept to take root and blossom, I might be able to choose a bathing suit or jeans based on WHAT FEELS GOOD, as opposed to what it hides or what it proves.
And I am going to make you a vow right now! If I find a pair of pants in my drawer that make me feel bad or that comment on the size of my thighs or the puff of my muffin-top every time I put them on … I am going to throw those sassy-mouthed, nasty-ass pants away. (And there is a pair of pants in my drawer that know exactly what I am talking about, they started insulting me in the store and haven’t shut up yet.)
Clarification: I am not endorsing SAD PANTS, RESIGNED-TO-MY-SHAPE PANTS or ORPHAN PANTS. I don’t want to look uncared for, depressed or abandoned.
I want to follow the lead of my sister, Jane, who declared, “I will only wear clothes that put a smile on my face.” What about you? Any clothes that have been talking smack that need to be tossed?
Maybe we should start a club? We need a secret handshake or maybe we could just exchange Fig Newtons as we pass by each other wearing a grin. Waddya say?