These words were originally posted on my old blog back when that thing existed. I’m honored to have shared this post on the National Eating Disorder Information Centre site, too. And now here we are again, bathing suit season, and it just seems fitting to share them one more time.
It’s splashed right across her face.
The waves gently touch the shore as she stands half-hidden behind a palm tree, busying herself with sunscreen and sunglasses and one more do-I-have-everything?
She’s wasting time. She’s gathering courage.
She’s surrounded by strangers who will never see her again but she looks at their faces and tries to imagine what they’ll think of her.
At twenty-one years old, no one has ever seen her in a two-piece bathing suit.
There’s a hole-in-the-wall surf shack playing music and the kayaks are waiting. Quickly – as if no one will notice the change or hear her heavy breathing – she slips off the pair of shorts and the tank top, folding them neatly and placing them to the side.
It’s just her and her size eight hips in a coral bathing suit.
You can see it in her eyes – the wondering. Her eyes dart left but no, the surf shack guy isn’t staring at her love handles. She glances down and sees a little pudge that none of the girls in the magazines have.
But then she looks up.
The water is blue and the memories are waiting. She can stand behind the tree self-examining every inch of skin and bone or she can let the water splash across her face instead.
Soon the water is lapping and she’s flipping around, mesmerized by the way the sun hits each patch of water and how each patch is really one big entity stretching further than eye can see.
Laughter pierces and she is alive.
If you’ve watched her this long then surely you’ll see that she walks with her head held high toward the waiting towel, hot on the sand. The oceans drips off of her. She sits and waits quiet for the wind to do its drying magic but hidden behind those dark sunglasses the battle is waging again.
Her thighs touch.
The afternoon has been magical, memories have been made, a turtle was spotted and laughter spilled freely but as she sits and dries the tears sting her eyes as she remembers: her thighs touch.
The coral bottoms touch skin all around and somehow the world got off saying that non-touching thighs is more than the norm – it’s the expectation.
The urge to cover the inches has never been so strong but look behind the glare of the sun hitting her sunglasses and you’ll discover she’s found the resolve to fight.
To sit uncovered instead of cowering in shame.
To ignore the messages splashed across the magazine covers.
To whisper a new message: this is beautiful.
Maybe you know a she whose thighs touch. Maybe that she is you.
That girl is me, size eight hips and all.
You’re beautiful just as you are. I mean it. I really do. But you have to believe it, too.
It’s time to run into the water. No more hiding behind the trees, looking into the eyes of another to confirm or deny our worth, as if it can be decided on some imaginary scale.
It’s time we speak out and say that our thighs touching? It’s actually okay.
When I realized I was sitting on the white sand of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and instead of admiring the view I was distracted by my own skin touching – I was appalled.
We have got beauty all wrong, all upside down and inside out.
And that’s the problem. Beauty is inside out and we’re looking outside in.
Don’t be the she that can’t see the view past her thighs.
You’re more than that. Every inch of skin is yours and it is lovely. Wear the bathing suit and choose to whisper three different words:
This is beautiful.