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It’s almost physically impossible for me to conjure an image of myself at a public beach wearing nothing but a stretchy sheath covering my private parts. Does any woman over 25 really feel carefree in the bright light of the California sun, semi-nude? How about a mid-life mom with two kids and two hip replacements? Exactly.
So while I tell my kids, “I’m afraid of what I might catch in that pool” (implants are incredibly susceptible to infection), the deeper truth is, I’m uncomfortable feeling naked in public. In my home, the anxiety is not greatly relieved, either. It feels like an unnatural state for me. Yes, I’m well aware that this makes no sense. Even more pressing than my naked body anxiety is my anxiety about the message this sends to my kids.
I catch myself imagining what it would be like to be one of those people who can just hang, naked, and be OK with it. Not in a weird way but in a modest “slow walk from the bathroom to the bedroom after a shower" kind of way. I just feel better with clothes on most of the time. And here’s the rub: It’s not a body hatred thing, because I like my body. I even like it naked.
I can look at myself in the mirror and think, "Not bad for my age, two kids and two hip replacements!" I feel awkward about the scars but I know in time they will fade. I just simply don’t feel at all relaxed being naked with people around me. Even my kids. It’s a huge deal if they see my butt and they giggle and go nuts whacking it and screaming, “Mommy has a bouncy tush!” It’s that much fun to them. Like seeing Santa, I guess.
My insecurity is robbing my kids of an important shared experience and now I have to weigh the cost.
The one thing I never want to pass on to my kids—especially my daughter—is body shame. My mother was always overweight and hid herself whenever possible. In the photos of my mom from her in post-children days, she’s almost always posing semi-hidden behind a plant or a piece of furniture. Tunics and TAB deﬁned her. As a teenager and all though my 20s I romped from Long Island to St. Tropez in stringy bikinis, strutting my stuff. I was also anorexic for patches of those years, so any body pride I had was probably dysmorphic.
My daughter is dying for me to go to the pool with her and her dad. My son would lose his mind seeing me splash around with him. If I didn’t have the hip replacements and scars I’m (kind of) sure I would take them up on the offer. My insecurity is robbing my kids of an important shared experience, and now I have to weigh the costs: my feeling uncomfortable when nobody gives a hoot what I look like ... or bringing joy to my kids' faces by playing in the pool with them. I think the answer in obvious. I guess the only way to ﬁnd out is to take the plunge.