My Body is at the Beach — Doesn’t That Make it a “Beach Body”?
I am beginning to understand that I have always had the perfect “beach body,” I just wasn’t always aware of it. Sometimes it is only in looking back that we can see the truth about ourselves.
I distinctly remember a time when my skin was velvety smooth and blemish-free — nary a wrinkle to be found. My hair was silky blonde and curly. I had no extra flesh, no cellulite, no saggy anything.
I also had a Styrofoam bubble on my back to keep my 18-month-old self from drowning when my mother could not keep me out of the water. But that time was the closest I ever came to having a perfect “beach body,” as it is defined by our culture.
When I became an adolescent, I was tall, skinny and flat chested with no hips and a flat butt. But I had legs that went on forever and skin that was golden brown and lustrous. My blonde hair got blonder in the summer as I lay beside the pool with my friends who were shorter, bustier, hippier and definitely cooler than I was. I was just beginning to buy-in to the standard of “beach body” perfection that looked its nose down on my lanky awkwardness. I felt anything but acceptable in my non-beach body.
As a young nursing mother, I was thrilled when my body showed up at the beach with a cleavage, albeit a dainty one compared to the standard. Still, it was such a thrill to have boobs for a change. Only now, I also had stretch marks, the result of my rail-thin body stretching to accommodate a chunky little baby boy — the same one who gave me the boobs. It seemed that I could never get my entire body to cooperate at once to give me that sought-after “beach body” that was held up as the gold standard we should all be reaching for.
When I turned 40, I suddenly developed some curves. Now I had boobs not dependent on a suckling baby, but I also had a soft, flabby belly and a flat saggy butt. I started seeing dark brown age spots on my arms and legs and some fine lines and wrinkles on my face — the result of all that time I spent on the beach.
At every point of my life, I have had one element of a perfect “beach body.” I just couldn’t seem to gather them all together at once to finally have the penultimate beach body I had always hoped for. It seems that beach body perfection has always been one step ahead or one step behind me my entire life.
Nearing 60 now, it occurs to me that any iteration of my body on the beach has been the perfect one, because being in or near water has always been my happy place. It should never have been about how I looked. Baring our bodies should be a celebration, not a competition. The freedom that comes with allowing ourselves to feel the sun on our limbs and the water washing like silk over our bodies — that’s what a “beach body” is for.
Now that I am on the downhill side of life, I refuse to waste any more time worrying about having something I have had all along — a perfect beach body. Because any time my body has been on the beach it has been perfect.