Beach Babe [Susan Isham]

This is going to be controversial.  Just fair warning.

A week ago Sunday, our church had its annual picnic at Mason Lake.  Very unusually, it was hot, close to 90 degrees after servcies and the sun reached its zenith.  We trooped out, enjoyed the sunshine, ate our fill and fellowshiped.

But there was a wrinkle.

Pirate Me.

A couple of my good fgirl friends told me excitedly, “I’m going to wear my swimsuit!  You should too!”  Yeah.  That prospect filled me with dread.  Me in a swimsuit in front of, not perfect strangers, but people I actually know.  And I wouldn’t be taking my contacts out, so I wouldn’t have the advantage of seeing everyone like an Impressionist painting, either. No thanks. Potential for embarassment?  One hundred percent.  Shaving?  Too much.

But then I got to thinking.  It’s hot, I have no lake at my house, our kiddie pool got decommissioned early due to the roofing project…Maybe I should.  One lovely friend mentioned she was going to wear shorts anyway.  Okay, okay.  I’m in.

I’ve always loved swimming.  My dad used to call me a water baby.  I’ve played in the water, despite not having a perfect swimsuit body, my whole life.  Nobody can really see your body underwater and you move with more grace, buoyed by the density of the waves. I learned to swim at my grandparents’ summer home on Fisher’s Island, off the coast of New York.  My swimming pool was a cordoned-off section of the Atlantic. I learned to dive (not well) and do very basic swimming strokes.  I loved it.

So all those great memories flooded back into my heart.  Of course, now I’m a mom, and swimming means watching my kids to make sure they don’t meet a watery death. However, the sense of freedom and joy, a release and recess of sorts, lifted my heart.

The sun sparkled on the lake.  Many other families were there, skirting the covered picnic area, in various swimsuits, with floatation devices and jet boats and lots of sunscreen. I realized another problem.  My friends were planning to cover their swimsuits with tank tops.  My swimsuit…is a bikini.  Before you judge me as a harlot, hear me out.  My last “mom” swimsuit gave up the ghost.  I’d had it since Zac was three and it made my chest look like I had egg-carton breasts.  Not flattering.  I searched in vain for in for a swimsuit that would look good and cover everything.  I ordered a bikini I found online.  Has anyone else noticed the lack of flattering swimsuits lately, in any style?!  Eh.  Anyway, I wore the top and shorts.  But the top, bless it’s heart, didn’t cover my middle.

I started to panic. My stomach would be exposed!  Everyone would see…what?  What, exactly, would be seen?  My less-than-flat midriff?  Are belly buttons sexy?  I guess I missed that memo.  I thought about covering up the swimsuit top.  But then I thought, Why?  What’s the point?  If I’m going to wear my swimsuit, then I should wear it.  Period.  If I cover it up, who’s going to know I’m even wearing it?  So I peeled off my tank top.

And I blended right in.  Oh, not with my church family, necessarily, though I did have a brave sister who wore her swimsuit, too, into the cold lake, right alongside me.  But the other families on the beach looked not unlike me.

All of this made me think.  The church universal has done a poor job of helping women make the transition from girl to adult.  We’ve been told, time and again, not to “make our brother stumble”.  We have to be modest.  We have to be covered up.  Don’t wear this on campus (Bethany). And the rest of the world is no better, brainwashing us into believing we should look like the size 0 model on the magazine cover, or to be buff beyond belief (I blame Jillian Michaels). But to what end?  All I saw was shame. When do we get to be comfortable in our own skins, happy with what we have and who God made us to be?  I’ll never be 5’8″ with legs that go on for days, like my sisters and most of my friends.  But I can work with what I have and be content.

I did not wear my swimsuit top to be controversial, to be sexy or to cause any friction.  It was what I had.  And for a few minutes, I felt like a kid again. Maybe next time I’ll swim out to the dock.



7 thoughts on “Beach Babe [Susan Isham]”

  1. I applaud you Susan. We are shown the picture-perfect body type from every angle at a very young age. The dolls we are given, the magazines we read and the comercials on television all point toward the unrealistic. I came to realize this after years of being a way-too-skinny teenager/young adult. I did stupid things to maintain that body type and was often sick because of it. Over time, I have come to appreciate the comfort of the extra fat layer-especially when the temps drop below zero. I also own a 2 pc bathing suit and I am not afraid to wear it. I may not be the size 5/7 I used to be but I am honestly who I am. Thank you!


  2. I’m ah, in my *cough* late 40’s now, and let’s just say I’m once,twice, three times a lady.
    Back in my early twenties when I was a size 6 and 8, I wore a bikini easily. I never took my top off though, I thought I was an absolute whale. Now that I *AM* a whale, I wish I had been less critical of myself. I’m trying to teach my daughter that balance now, between modesty and beauty.


  3. Fantastic!!! Well said. I’m finally at the stage where, despite my *white* skin and not so taut abs, if I’m going swimming, I don’t care what others think. I still don’t like taking off my wrap and exposing my swimsuit-wearing self but then I remember while I’m probably the absolute whitest person out there (be sure you have sunglasses on before you look my way) I’m probably not the largest and I have 4 beautiful children that this body carried. Would I like to be able to wear a bikini? Oh yes!!! I would love to have that “high school” body back. Would I wear a bikini in public? Nope. Too self-conscious even if I had a great figure. 🙂 I love it when other women my age are brave and confident enough to wear one. I’ll keep wishing I was. I hope you keep wearing yours as long as you can!!!!!!!


  4. Funny, you rocked that suit at the Church Picnic, girl. You were way brave and I admired you so much. Next time, though, you may want to re think that thong bottom.


  5. For a number of years, I have thought that much of the Church’s views on the human body have been detrimental to young people being trained up to be raised as Christians. I’ve seen a pastor literally weep during a sermon because “Adam and Eve were naked in the garden.” It’s as if the very thought that approximately 100% of the world has breasts is somehow offensive to consider. As a full-figured guy, I object to the notion.

    I may have to write a blog of my own on a similar topic. Well done, Susan.


  6. After living in Europe, I think anything with a top is modest. But this is an issue for us. We buy a swimsuit here and we can’t wear it there. We buy a one piece, and it isn’t enough for some in the states. The challenge becomes even greater when you want to teach your daughter both modesty, AND equally important, beauty within and contentment in her looks, not based on her size. I find lots of stuff from Christians on the modesty part but balancing it with contentment and seeking to be beautiful, not so much. Thanks for at least opening the topic.


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