Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wear the Swimsuit



The other day I was spending my lunch with my favorite ladies at my new place of work. We have shared all kinds of conversations in the past few months and we have become fast friends. The topic of swimming came up and one of the lovely women at our table said she wouldn't don a swimsuit so it was a non-topic for her. This made me sad.

My whole life I have spend swimming. I cannot remember a time I didn't know how to swim and I know I was always happiest in the water. My mother, too, loves to swim. She scoured the stores for beautiful swimsuits to wear in what is now considered a "plus-size". She has had hundreds in my lifetime. No matter what her size she'd find lovely suits, sexy suits, colorful suits to wear so she could swim.

As a child I always had a bigger frame than a lot of my peers. But I didn't care, I loved to swim and so I put on my swim suit and lived in the water. As a teen, when body image was most acute, I mindlessly put on swimsuits - some one piece, occasionally a two piece encouraged by my then boyfriend/now husband.

Candice and husband Ryan
when they were teens


As my body morphed and evolved through pregnancies, childbirth, and, yes, weight gain in middle age, I had different feelings about my form, but I have always, always, always put on the swimsuit.

I read once that mothers stopped being in the pictures taken of their children and with the family. They became the always-photographer so they could step out of the frame. Consequently, children grew up without their mothers in memories captured on film. It saddened me.

When I got my first flip phone with camera I started taking "Selfies", the word that has a terrible connotation. Once I got my first iPhone, the selfies became far more numerous.

It wasn't about being stuck up, vain, or crass, it was about seeing myself and forcing myself to accept and love me. Every time I do a "selfie" photo shoot I pour over the pictures and force myself to choose ones to post that make me happy. I post them to teach myself to accept the me of now, flaws and all. It's not easy, still.

A few summers ago I saw a news story about a woman who was plus-sized like me, but who wore a swimsuit, took pictures of herself, and posted them on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. She, in essence, was trying to love herself in the here and now so she could have fun and be present with her children. Boy, did that resonate with me.



So, since then, I, too, have taken pictures of myself in my swimsuit and posted on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. Like my other "selfies", it still takes me a while to find ones that I like and I can tolerate sharing with the world, but I do it. It's my gift to me and ultimately to my children that I accept me and I am a participant in my/our lives.



Hearing this beautiful, thinner, younger woman at  my lunch table lament that she wasn't ever going to wear a swimsuit makes me sad because I know the feeling. We are bombarded - women and men - in society with what we are supposed to look like. It's crap.



What I did was follow women on social media I want to emulate and who make me happy to see their form. Ashley Graham is a favorite of mine. She's the first plus-size model to win the coveted cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a few years back. She's modeled for plus-size store Lane Bryant, and now has her own fashion line for full-figured women.



When you see images of smart, sexy people with a form similar to your own, you stop hating on yourself so much.





If posting my pictures on social media helps another woman, or man, feel better about themselves and gives them courage to be themselves, then I'm pleased, But I'm doing this for me and my family.




Life is happening now. We aren't born with termination dates so I have no idea how long I have. I'm going to continue to live in the moment, post my selfies, #WeartheSwimsuit, and continue to learn to love and accept myself because if I can't love me, no one can.



Cheers to us, no matter our size, our hair type, or our flaws. Let's simply embrace and celebrate our fabulous qualities!