|Me on the left, blissfully unaware of|
the pressures of "bathing suit season."
There have only been two summers when I could have been described as “bikini-ready,” and during each of those, I was either training for or ramping down from a marathon. In other words, for me to come close to measuring up to magazine standards of beach preparedness, I have to be running more than 30 miles a week. Unfortunately, since I am also kind of lazy, the tally will likely remain at or close to two. And I really don’t mind.
I used to. There were whole decades during which I was fixated on attaining the ever-elusive “flat tummy” that Fitness Magazine promises in at least 2/3 of its issues, especially in the lead-up to summertime. Having grown up in a tank suit kind of family, I held fast to my childhood beliefs that bikinis were kind of racy and only intended for people of star status (you know – like Susan, the self-assured, fast-talking Californian half of Hayley Mills’ role in the original The Parent Trap). I didn’t permit myself to sport a two-piece suit until I was 23, and even then it was a fairly conservative tankini, usually worn draped under some kind of elaborate wrap item.
But now that my husband and I have this perfect little son, and our first summer as a family approaches, I’m thanking my lucky stars that I never had a gorgeous, flat belly. Why? Because I have nothing to miss. I don’t own 15 cute bikinis that will languish in the back of a drawer, taunting me with their tortoiseshell hardware and snazzy prints. I don’t resent my stretch marks, even though they make me look like the survivor of a tiger mauling. They’ll look just fine under my serviceable Speedo and a breezy cotton cover-up. When I do examine them from time to time, I won’t curse them for altering my physique, because they exist on a part of my body that has only been tan once in almost 34 years. If they mellow out over the years, fine. If not, big deal.
I know it sounds kind of girl power-y or hippie-dippy, but I’m proud of my post-pregnancy stomach. It’s the oddly fascinating, kind of surreal result of bringing a whole new person into the world. It’s evidence that nature is powerful and miraculous and awe-inspiring, and I’m a tiny part of it. It’s like erosion or a volcanic eruption or plate tectonics—on a very small scale. And after all, gazing at the Grand Canyon, nobody says, “That looks horrible. I hope they can get it to go back its pre-glacier landscape in time for bathing suit season.”