I am fat.
Not in an I-eat-a-dozen-twinkies-a-day-and-can’t-move fat, but in an I-had-fertility-treatments-and-two-kids-in-two-years kind of chunky. I think my BMI is like 26, which the WII fit cheerily informs me is “overweight.”
Nonetheless, my two-year-old son has recently discovered the joys of swimming, and desperately, desperately wanted Mommy to go swimming with him. This involved swimsuit shopping, and, worse, swimsuit wearing. It has been a long, long time since Mommy wore a swimsuit.
I looked longingly at the gigantic swimsuits with skirts and coverups. I even tried one on, but in the end, I went with a simple, modern but modest tankini. With no coverup. And then I wore it, in public, just me and my cellulite and my tankini.
Because I have a daughter.
I have a daughter who is going to be told by the world that she needs to act a certain way, look a certain way, dress a certain way in order to be loved and valued. This world is going to tell my daughter that being thin is the most important thing, that she must look like the bodies on the big screen in order to be wanted or desirable.
And because I have a son. I have a little boy who is going to be given a distorted view of women by the media. I have a son who is going to grow up surrounded by images that look nothing like a real woman; a son who is going to be told by movies and advertising and Swimsuit Illustrated that women are objects to gawk at and drool over.
And as their mother, I am here to tell them no. The world is wrong.
Real women have stretch marks on their thighs and bellies from where we expanded with a growing life. Real women have boobs that sag because we nourished that life for weeks and months and maybe even years. Real women have messed up hair and dark lines under our eyes from sleepless nights spent rocking and cuddling and soothing that baby. Real women aren’t six foot and a hundred pounds because we know that is not a healthy weight.
Real women are maybe a little chunky and have cellulite and stretch marks and pimples and no personal makeup artist.
And they are still valued. Still loved. Still desireable.
I want my children to know this. I want them to know that women are much, much more than a number on a scale or a certain size of jeans. I want them to look at me, in my tankini, in a body scarred from fertility treatments, pregnancies and c-sections, and know that they are loved. That they are more important than the size six that I used to be. I want them to see what a real woman is.
And that is why I don’t wear cover ups or obsess over how I look in that tankini-that-is-not-a-six. Because I want my son to grow up and love a woman because she is funny and smart and loves him back; because I want my daughter to grow up and know that her beauty and value is not dependent on a number.
I want my children to be real, and in this world gone mad, it is my job to show them what real is.