We went to the beach over the weekend. Like always, I was a bundle of nerves. You never know what to expect out there! It could be packed with constant traffic, the seaweed could line the shore in large clumps. And then there’s tar balls. They’re all over the beach and they smell like freshly laid asphalt. You can pick them up and stretch them, bend them, whatever. It’s nasty. Other than that, the beach around here is really nice. The sand can get packed down to a point where you don’t have to worry about getting your vehicle stuck. If you’re unafraid of bird poop, you can get a wonderful show of the local sea birds around here like pelicans and…other birds that I don’t know the names of but can tell you are oddly attractive. Sometimes, because the beach is miles and miles long if you go on the right day (weekday) and early enough (before or around lunchtime) it can get busy but still with enough space between each parked group that you can’t hear each other or even smell each others food. We wanted to go for a quiet afternoon in the sun and luckily, this is how we found the beach.
When I was younger I always wore a t-shirt to the beach. My sister made fun of my boobs because they were so much smaller than everyone else’s and, sadly, I felt shamed into covering up. This carried on into my early teens when I started to get back acne, which is incredibly gross and unattractive on so many levels. No matter what methods or soaps I used, it just got worse. I had no choice but to ditch the shirt; I needed the sun and water to dry my skin out or something. When I finally took off that shirt and gained a real tan the next thing I knew, the back acne was gone. Then my sister started making fun of me for two other reasons. She said I was so skinny I could pass as a junkie and also…I have a happy trail. There, I said it. I have the stomach of man with below average stomach hair. It’s gross. The shirt came back on and I just stopped going to the beach until I learned about Nair (haha) which smells like creamy egg fart in a bottle. Next thing you know, Stilla had nothing left to say to me. By this point, she had two kids and we all know what can happen to the bodies of mothers. That’s what happened to her. Saggy boobs; many, many stretch marks.
After my first son, I started to wear a cami over my bikini top. The true reason for this may actually surprise you. I gained around 55 lbs going from a snug size 1 to a size 9. By the time I was “beach ready” I was settling in to my size 7 with comfort and Skas was 2.5 years-old. I had stretch marks but I was already used to them. They didn’t frighten me, gross me out or make me feel like there was no chance I could ever be sexy again. I kept almost half of my baby weight and I felt good about it. I always had energy, my boobs actually filled out a shirt and the seat of my pants no longer sagged and I liked my “love handles” and that little jiggly motion in my belly. I felt like I had the body of a grown-up, a woman. So why, Kt, did you wear a cami? I didn’t want to turn my stretch marks silver. The deeper ones were still kind of pink and I didn’t know if the sun would make them burn or itch. And yes, there was a small part of me still hesitant to take that last step and expose my belly. I have stretch marks on my boobs, my stomach, my sides and even my thighs. I gained that much weight. The ones on my belly were the last to show the world and I just couldn’t do it…yet.
Now, 5 years later we have a lot more anti-shaming campaigns spanning the globe. Women of all sizes, colors, backgrounds and situations are standing up for all sorts of reasons and they are speaking up for not only their own battles but for the many that women around the world are fighting. We face so much criticism; no matter what a woman does, she is not right or good enough.
Just to make things that much more interesting, I have this annoying disability. I have lost so much muscle tone in my left leg that it’s straight. The only curves in that leg are around my knee cap. So there you have it, I am physically unattractive which hurts when I look back and think of how covered up I was when I shouldn’t have been. My perspective on physical beauty is altered because of my stroke and disability and somehow it has brought me shameless confidence that can only be seen after a brief phase of immense insecurity.
The day before and the morning of the day we went to the beach I wondered if I would find the courage to take off my shirt and get some sun like I have craved for weeks. I thought of how funny I “walk” in the sand. I’m not sure this term is correct but I believe what I have going on is called a supinated foot on my affected leg. This doesn’t affect me too much in my house but when I’m on unfamiliar grounds barefoot such as sand, it can get difficult to walk and it looks funny. This lack of feeling balanced increases tone in my left arm which makes it stick out forward from the shoulder, bend slightly in at the elbow, and curl my wrist in and tighten my hand into a fist.
So, thinking of how funny my disability makes me look on the sand allowed me to laugh off my stretch marks. People are going to look at me and shake their heads for one reason or another. Nothing I do will ever satisfy everyone and why should I worry about their satisfaction with my body? Sure, I got a lot of looks and they certainly weren’t the good kind but for once in my life, I went to the beach and I took off my damn shirt without feeling at all embarrassed or ashamed. There was nothing in the back of my head keeping me hiding under a shirt or near the shadow of the car. Why did it take my disability to find this boldness to simply not worry? As much as I want to, I can’t say I didn’t care but it was worry free. I laid in the sun, I dug in the sand, I played with kids on the shore and I sat and watched Kasper play with our kids in the waves. Isn’t that really what going to the beach is about? Isn’t that what everything is about? Just having fun? Why are we forced to feel uncomfortable with who we are, how we are? I can’t remove my disability like Nair can remove my hideous happy trail, I can’t take off my brace and let the sand help my foot like the sun helped my back but I can at least tell everyone to sod off when they see that I actually live with my body instead of constantly prepping it for display. We should all be happy with what we have no matter how lacking others say we are. Even without full confidence, we should enjoy each day with our family and friends without feeling restricted to the limits everyone sets according to their own standards. Shame is a terrible thing to live with and we need to move beyond the ability to shame and learn to promote and embrace self-respect through flattery and deference.